Holyland awaits outcome of St Pat’s Day ‘gamble’

By Paul Ainsworth

Booze checkpoints are to be set up in the Holyland this week as long-term residents tentatively await the onset of St Patrick’s weekend.

Long-suffering residents, who for years have endured riots and student destruction over the national saint’s day celebrations, say they are nervously awaiting the outcome of Queen’s University’s “gamble” on preventing further trouble this year.

The South Belfast based university has cancelled classes for students on Friday and Monday in a bid to encourage those with term addresses in areas such as the Holyland to return home.

However, locals, who cite Thursday as the rowdiest student night in any normal week, fear students may well leave for St Patrick’s Day but remain in the area that night for a “mini-St Patrick’s Day”.

The University of Ulster has chosen to remain open on Friday, fearing that extra days off could encourage more rowdy partying.

The statutory authorities’ response to the problem includes PSNI-operated alcohol control points where officers plan to seize booze being consumed in public and to issue on-the-spot fines. They have also vowed to report those in breach of alcohol bye-laws to Belfast City Council.

Residents’ spokesman Ray Farley said that locals welcomed the booze check-point operation, but were worried over what could happen on Thursday.

Queen’s Student Union are holding a St Patrick’s Day Festival gig on Thursday, while other local bars are expected to be busy with revellers.

“The fear is that Thursday will be a mini St Pat’s, and we will soon see which of the universities was right in their approach to the issue of taking a reading day on Friday, and the following Monday,” Mr Farley said.

“It’s a gamble, as we will either see a quieter area on Saturday, or students will simply stay up and we will have a long weekend of partying. It could go either way. I hope it is quieter, but before that there’s Thursday to consider. We are hoping it isn’t the beginning of a four day nightmare.”

A spokesman for Queen’s Student Union, Aiden Hughes warned any students remaining in the Holyland this weekend that they could “ruin their future careers, if they engage in anti-social behaviour.

“If you choose to be in the area and are drinking alcohol in the street, then you run the serious risk of being disciplined. Your actions at this time could ruin your future career.”

 

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