Northern Ireland

Fifteen St Patrick's Day arrests in Holyland and Belfast city centre

Young people in the Holyland Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Belfast's Holyland is student-dominated area and has seen trouble on St Patrick's Day in the past

Police have confirmed they have arrested 15 people in Belfast city centre and Holyland areas, linked to the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

The arrests were for a range of public order offences such as disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and minor assaults including assaults on police.

On Friday there was a heavy police presence in south Belfast where hundreds of young people gathered.

Officers in police vehicles patrolled the area on Thursday and Friday.

The police said most of the arrests involved people in their late teens and mid-20s.

Behaviour in the area had generally been better than in previous years, police said.

Superintendent Melanie Jones said: "Thankfully there was no repeat of the disgraceful levels of behaviour that we saw in the Holylands last year.

"However, police and partner agencies responded to numerous reports of unacceptable anti-social conduct and young people drinking alcohol in the street.

"In fact, the majority of those arrested were under the influence of alcohol".

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Police said there had been 'low-level disorder' in the Holyland on Friday

"At the very maximum number, we would've seen a crowd of about 300 or 400," said Supt Jones.

"We've worked very hard to make sure we're getting the messages out early about what sort of behaviour is acceptable."

Both Queen's University and Ulster University asked their students to stay away from the area on St Patrick's Day, and classes were also cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, many students have remained in the Holyland despite their universities' pleas.

Ray Farley, from the Holyland Residents' Association, said there was a "huge amount of students, young people and non-residents" in the area, adding that it was very noisy.

"If it wasn't for the police presence, it would've been a really bad situation for everyone here," said Mr Farley.

"It's not as bad as last year - police are managing to keep it at a level that, while not acceptable, is not serious."

About 30 staff from the universities have joined police in the area, along with Belfast City Council workers.

Five off-licences in the Holyland have closed "voluntarily" for a number of hours.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Police have maintained a heavy presence throughout Thursday night and Friday

Queen's University insists that the majority of those who traditionally travel to the mainly-student area of the city on St Patrick's Day are post-primary pupils or non-students.

There has been no repeat of the overnight disorder in the area on St Patrick's Day last year.

On 17 March 2016, one officer was injured when bottles were thrown at police in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered.

The Holyland, which is close to Queen's University, is dominated by Victorian housing divided into student accommodation.

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