Newry parents warned about student behaviour on St.Patrick’s Day

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
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Police in Newry have warned parents and students of the PSNI’s plans to tackle anti-social behaviour on St Patrick’s Day in the Holylands, Belfast. Newry Times reported a fortnight ago how Newry University students could face expulsion from Queens and the University of Ulster should they be found engaging in any anti-social behaviour.

As a multi-agency plan is implemented to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Holyland area of South Belfast on St. Patrick’s Day, the Police in partnership with Belfast City Council, Queen’s University and University of Ulster are advising parents in Newry, who may have given permission for their children to stay with siblings or friends in the Holyland area, to reconsider their decision.

Speaking to Newry Times, Superintendent Nigel Goddard said, “As a parent, myself, I understand the aspirations which you have for your children. You want to make sure that, should they wish to, they can avail of any career opportunity. You want to know that they can travel freely, or work abroad. What we don’t want to see and what we don’t want parents to have to deal with, is a situation where through some misguided behaviour or high jinx their child ends up with a criminal record, which could restrict their opportunities, both in terms of career and in terms of travel.”

“Police will have a highly visible presence in the Holyland area of South Belfast. We will be deploying evidence gathering teams on the ground and the information which these teams record will be used in any subsequent investigations. Officers will also be seizing alcohol from anyone who attempts to drink on the street and details will be recorded of individuals involved in anti-social behaviour. So involvement in such activity could lead to a police record. In a wide variety of employment environments, individuals have to disclose any criminal record and this may impact on job opportunities,” Goddard added.

The Police, Belfast City Council, Churches, voluntary groups and both Universities invest significant resources in trying to ensure students and long-term residents can live peacefully together in the Holyland area. Councillor Pat McCarthy, chairman of Belfast City Council’s Health and Environmental Services Committee, said, “We continue to work in partnership with the other agencies to try to ensure St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Holyland and wider university area pass off with as little disruption to residents as possible. The problems associated with the Holyland are well-documented and every year we appeal to people to be mindful of their neighbours and to show respect for them and each other. I would repeat this appeal again.”

Traditionally, it has always been assumed that the vast majority of young people in the Holyland on St Patrick’s Day were students at one of the local universities, university colleges or FE Colleges. However, there is increasing evidence that suggests that many of the young people in attendance in the Holyland on St Patrick’s Day came from schools and colleges across Northern Ireland, including many who have family members already living in the area.

Tony Gallagher, Pro Vice Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast explained, “During the course of the last year, university staff have been visiting schools and colleges across Northern Ireland, delivering talks to students who may be considering attending university. They have been outlining university protocols that exist in relation to acceptable student behaviour and they have been discussing the impact which anti-social behaviour has on long term residents in communities. Our staff have been asking pupils, if they have been in the Holyland area previously and feedback is indicating that large numbers of pupils in post primary schools, visited the Holyland area to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and stayed with friends or siblings.”

Outlining why the inter-agency group is now making its appeal to parents of sixth form students, Professor Alastair Adair, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Ulster, Belfast explained, “If you do opt to go to the Holyland and you do fall foul of the law, then you should be very clear that you could end up in serious difficulties, including the risk of getting a criminal record. If this happens then you put at risk your chance of even going to university and you may end up destroying your future career before it even begins.”

He added, “Both Queen’s and the University of Ulster are encouraging their students to stay off the streets of the Holyland on St Patricks Day, and both are committed to disciplining those students who get involved in anti-social behaviour. Any other young people who get involved on the day will be dealt with by the City Council Wardens and the police.”


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