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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 14:37 GMT
Student protest ends in trouble
There have been tensions between residents and students in the area
There have been tensions between residents and students in the area
Relationships between students and residents in south Belfast have deteriorated after a street protest ended in trouble.

Hundreds of students in the Holyland area of Belfast took to the streets on Tuesday.

They were protesting at a BBC NI Spotlight investigation which highlighted tensions between residents and some students.

The students claimed they were being portrayed in the wrong light.

At about midnight, several residents phoned the BBC saying they were being intimidated and frightened.

They claimed hundreds of people were on the streets, bottles had been broken and abuse was being hurled at them.

Speaking as the trouble went on, Bronagh Hinds of the Rugby Residents Group said: "They are chucking bottles and things at us and they are running around talking about students being discriminated against, that it is their area.

It is the 5% that have let us down and portrayed a bad image of what regularly is a good student population and a good area to live in
Kevin Magourty
Queen's Students' Union

"There are people here who can't get their kids to sleep. There are literally hundreds of them on the streets."

The vice president of Queen's Students Union, Kevin Magourty, who went out to disperse the crowd, said a minority of students were involved in the trouble.

"It is an absolutely regrettable event," he said.

Students claim a
Students claim a "rogue element" causes the problems in the Holyland

Mr Magourty said there was no doubt that the programme had been "hard hitting" and the students wanted to demonstrate about that.

"But 95% of them gathered here respectfully," he said.

"It is the 5% that have let us down and portrayed a bad image of what regularly is a good student population and a good area to live in."

Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queen's University, Gerry McCormac, said the university was "appalled" and utterly condemned what had happened.

New code

He said the university would deal severely with any students from Queen's who was identified or associated with intimidation of residents.

"There needs to be a tolerable level of life for everyone living in the Holyland and other residential areas around the university," he said.

"We are bringing in a new disciplinary code and we will use that robustly to deal with this situation."

Mr McCormac added: "Students concerned about negative publicity really need to focus their attention on the perpetrators, not the residents and media."

Mr McCormac said he dealt regularly with landlords, residents and police to reduce the problems.

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey who was at the scene said the behaviour was "disgraceful and totally unacceptable".

"I told people it was totally unacceptable that a family had to leave their home because of what was being described as a protest."

There was a police presence at the protest.

The police said they had no reports of any injuries or damage to property, and no arrests were made.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BBC NI's Julian O'Neill:
"At about midnight, several residents phoned the BBC saying they were being intimidated and frightened"


BBC NI's Shane Glynn reports:
"Residents phoned to say they were being intimidated and frightened"



SEE ALSO:
Crackdown on 'rowdy students'
01 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland
Student burglaries on decrease
30 Sep 04 |  Northern Ireland
Tide of change in student area
11 May 04 |  Northern Ireland


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