As South Belfast braces itself for another St Patrick’s Day hooley in the Holyland, those in authority who have stepped up this week to propose a solution to this annual debacle deserve to be praised.
For too long, those who bear the most responsibility for the St Patrick’s Day mayhem — which, thankfully, hasn’t risen to full-scale riot since 2009 — have got off Scot-free.
We refer of course to the students themselves who, treated like private schoolboy pranksters, behave as such, and the universities who have made hand-washing a degree course.
In other cities, students are viewed as excellent citizens. They work hard both behind their desks and in part-time employment; party exuberantly but responsibly; bring vibrancy to civic life and attract the huge financial muscle now associated with third-level education.
In Belfast, however, they have been corralled in what only can be described as a student ghetto, freed of any responsibility to the wider city, and allowed to run amok as the college authorities looked the other way.
There are many reasons why Belfast lags behind other universities in these islands and further afield when it comes to cherishing our student population and partnering them to enhance the prosperity of all.
But the main reason is that no government department was willing to take the lead in driving forward a multi-faceted solution to the mess which is the Holyland and the St Patrick’s Day fiasco which is its apogee.
Thankfully, Belfast City Council has now stepped up to the plate on the issue, this week issuing a report which not only tells us how to deal with these problems but explains how we make students the very centre of a dynamic city.
Hopefully, the many recommendations in this report will be taken up by those-in-power.
In the meantime, students — and the rest of us — should enjoy St Patrick’s Day while respecting the neighbours.