SOUTH Belfast Alliance MLA Paula Bradhsaw says there needs to be a a greater sense of urgency in tackling anti-social behaviour in the Holyland, especially given that St Patrick’s Day is now only a month away.
The student area has seen a number of incidents and breaches of the Health Protection Regulations have been reported to the police throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Bradshaw fears that a lack of preparation ahead of St Patrick’s Day could put Holyland residents at risk.
“As recently as Tuesday there were reports of students drinking alcohol in their front gardens, on top of bay windows, playing loud music throughout the streets, and although there were no breaches of the restrictions because households weren't mixing, this behaviour can still act as a considerable disturbance for neighbours,” she explained.
“Parties were taken inside when police requested, but many local residents were met with verbal abuse prior to police involvement when they asked for loud music to be turned down.
“Many who live in the area are concerned that potential St Patrick’s Day celebrations could spread Covid-19.
“I have consistently raised this possibility with the PSNI, the Council and the NI Executive. I will also be meeting with Queen’s University to discuss their plans to discourage students from gathering on St Patrick’s Day in breach of guidance.
“There is a lack of urgency around the potential for gatherings and this could have a significant impact on efforts to curtail the spread of the virus. The Holyland is a complex mix of different housing arrangements and demographics, with many elderly and vulnerable people living in the area. If proper precautions are not taken, then all residents could be put at risk."
Have been on to @PSNIBelfastS again this evening about ongoing partying in Holylands area. How are we still dealing with this, even now 11mths into a pandemic?! If you have friends or family in the area, you might want to have a word..— Áine Groogan (@AineGroogan) February 16, 2021
Ms Bradshaw said that while many young people will be feeling the strain that the restrictions have placed on their lives, she’s encouraging everyone in the area to act responsibly for the sake of others.
“I would remind those in houses of multiple occupancy that they are one household under Covid-19 Regulations, and residents should not be travelling between their accommodation and their family homes. Bubble arrangements must be strictly limited to one other household for all the residents.
“I urge restraint from students and others who are considering hosting parties, as these incidents only increase the risk of lockdown measures continuing.”