SDLP representatives in South Belfast are calling on young people to treat local neighbours with respect while enjoying St Patrick’s Day.
With limited progress having been made on regeneration and addressing anti-social behaviour in the area, local SDLP representatives urged people to enjoy the day responsibly.
South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said:
“People of all generations and backgrounds look forward to celebrating St Patrick’s Day, but unfortunately behaviour in the Holyland has been rotten in recent years. It’s not only a nightmare for local residents, including many older people and young children, it has left young people with police records or academic sanctions.
“Craic on a day of celebration shouldn’t include criminal damage and verbal abuse but unfortunately that has been a feature of large gatherings here in the past. There is a lot public bodies and landlords need to do to regenerate and build cohesion in this neighbourhood, but that doesn’t stop anyone exercising personal responsibility and not getting involved in the ignorant, loutish behaviour that has become synonymous with the Holyland on St Patrick’s Day, and tarnishes students and young people. Go out, celebrate with friends, but stay away from the Holyland this week.”
South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said:
“The last couple of years have been unbelievably difficult for young people, who have missed out on so much experience and so much living. Many will understandably want to celebrate St Patrick's Day, but our message is simple: celebrate but avoid the Holyland. The community there is clear that it doesn't want disturbance and the area will have a heavy police presence on the day. There are countless places across the city, the north and the entire island of Ireland where young people will be welcomed but the Holyland community is clear that it doesn't want the kind of scenes witnessed in the past.
“For those who do go, bear in mind that your actions could have consequences: both the police and university representatives will be on the ground for the duration. In short, there are better and more appropriate places to have a good time on St Patrick's Day.”
Cllr Gary McKeown said:
"We want the Holyland to be a neighbourhood that is welcoming for young people, families and older people, but that can only work if everyone respects the community around them. Too many people see this area as an excuse to party and cause havoc – if that is your plan this St Patrick's Day, then stay away. Ultimately we need strategic leadership to make the Holyland realise its potential as a fantastic, integrated area where people want to live."
South Belfast representative Elsie Trainor said:
“Tomorrow marks the first proper St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Belfast since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. It will be wonderful to see people come together to celebrate, but we also need to be mindful and respectful of local residents in South Belfast and right across our city. I have spoken to residents in the Holyland and I know how much anxiety they feel about anti-social behaviour right through the year, but it reaches fever pitch in the build up to St Patrick’s Day. There’s no reason people cannot go out tomorrow and enjoy their day without subjecting residents to a horrendous ordeal. I’d urge everyone to take care and think of others during this year’s events.”