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UU calls for long-term solution to Holyland trouble

18 March 10 16:08 GMT

A long-term solution must be found to the problem of student behaviour in Belfast's Holyland area, the University of Ulster's Vice Chancellor has said.

Professor Richard Barnett made his remarks as he praised all those involved in ensuring that St Patrick's Day passed off peacefully in the area.

Last year, several police officers were hurt and property damaged in trouble involving hundreds of young people.

Professor Barnett described Wednesday's efforts as "a sticking plaster".

"While progress was made yesterday, we also have to acknowledge the situation in the Holylands continues to cause considerable distress to local residents and we will continue to work with them to look at a long term solution," he said.

"It will require local MLAs and the Northern Ireland Executive across a number of government departments, working with the stakeholders throughout the year, to tackle in a concerted way the wider issues which undoubtedly have contributed to this situation.

"These include finding a viable long-term solution to the Holylands, dealing with the binge drinking culture and confronting the issue of the planning regulations which have led to high concentrations of houses of multiple occupancy in the area."

Police also praised the "huge effort" that ensured St Patrick's Day in the area passed largely without incident.

Superintendent Chris Noble said police worked with agencies including the two universities ahead of the day.

A total of eight arrests were made in the area on St Patrick's Day, although not all were linked to the festivities.

Three arrests were made for disorderly behaviour; one for grievous bodily harm; one for common assault; one for a burglary; one on a bench warrant and one for aggravated burglary.

Last year, 12 arrests were made during the trouble, which cost £35,000 to police.

In an attempt to avert a repeat of last year's scenes, Queen's University, the University of Ulster and their respective student unions worked with Belfast City Council, the police and local residents.

Student volunteers

Belfast City Council installed 12 CCTV cameras and employed 25 council wardens to patrol the area.

About 80 students union representatives wearing green vests also helped out, serving tea and quelling potential sources of trouble.

Supt Noble praised the work of the student volunteers "who worked to defuse any issues before they could become more serious".

He added: "We are aware that some residents have expressed concern about a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour, particularly in the Holyland area.

"We are committed to listening to those concerns and together with our partners proactively addressing them all year round - not just for St Patrick's Day.

"In one incident in Palestine Street, officers were aware of very loud music being played.

"Police liaised with a number of partners, and took proactive steps to address this issue. Equipment from the house was taken away and the occupants of the house were spoken to.

"A significant amount of alcohol was also seized in the Belfast area, including the Holyland, throughout the day."

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