It would be nice to think that the relatively quiet scenes in the Holyland on St Patrick’s Day were due to a new maturity and respect for the neighbours’ sensitivity among our student population. However, the reality is that it was probably the absence of those same young people which made for a calmer Feast Day.
Queen’s University wisely decided to allow students a ‘reading day’, urging them to strike out for their rural homelands on Friday, March 16 rather than hang about for the house parties, hooleys or even riots which have been the staple fare of St Patrick’s Day in the Holyland for the past decade.
As a result, most students moved their St Patrick’s Day revelry to the Thursday night and then fled the big smoke on the Friday. Thus was St Patrick’s Day on Saturday a relatively muted affair.
There is something sad about a city which has to ‘expel’ its young people to ensure that order and sanity prevail on the National Saint’s Day. But if that’s the price of a quiet St Patrick’s Day, then it has to be said that we’d rather be sad than sorry.
The PSNI, City Council neighbourhood wardens, university security teams and local residents all deserve credit for their co-ordinated drive to stop trouble in the Holyland this St Patrick’s Day. One hopes that same unity of purpose will continue when a new report on how best to tackle the decimation of the Holyland community is actioned next month.
In the meantime, readers saddened by the sight of public drunkenness among people – of all ages – on St Patrick’s Day might wish that the city would take a leaf out of New York’s book.
For in the Big Apple on Saturday the city played host to the first-ever ‘Sober St Patrick’s Day’, a sold-out, four-hour festival of music, song and dance to celebrate the Patron Saint with nary a hard drop served.
Now that would be an event worth raising a glass to on St Patrick’s Day.