POSTCARDS FROM BELFAST'S HOLYLAND
On 13 May 2008, Iain Wright MP, Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government fulfilled a promise made by his predecessor to Cllr. Dave Trimble and the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) to visit us and our neighbourhoods.
On the day of his visit, he was given a booklet prepared by Nottingahm City Council and the NAG as well as a recording of a programme produced by the BBC in the East Midlands exploring the impact that anti-social behaviour was having on neighbourhoods in Nottingham and in Loughborough.
The contents of that booklet formed the basis of two supplements to the Summer 2008 issue of the NAG's magazine. The first was a guide to 'Balanced Communities: HMOs & Student Housing'. The second featured a series of 'Postcards' from around the National HMO Lobby. One of those postcards was from Belfast's Holyland neighbourhood.
On Thursday, 22 September 2016, the Northern Ireland section of the BBC's news on-line carried an article about Belfast's Holyland entitled:
Drunken students 'risking future careers', says university
Students involved in anti-social behaviour in Belfast's Holyland area are putting their education and careers at risk, says Queen's University.
More than 150 complaints about the behaviour of students from various institutions have been lodged with Belfast City Council since Monday.
Ulster University and teaching college undergraduates also live in the area.
On Wednesday, the PSNI confirmed its officers gave verbal warnings and on-the-spot fines to almost 100 people.
Permanent residents in the Holyland area said they had been "terrorised" by drunken students "causing mayhem" in the early hours of the morning.
Briege Ruddy from the College Park Residents Association said: "Between 1am and 3am it's complete bedlam - they arrive home drunk, upsetting the whole community, keeping children awake, firing bottles at houses and smashing windscreens.
"We had our wing mirror kicked off last night. When my husband came out to look at it, two guys just laughed at him."
Speaking to the BBC, Queen's spokesperson Ciaran Rogan said any of their students who partake in such behaviour risk expulsion from the university which can, in turn, damage their career prospects.
"Our students sign up to a charter that sets out the standards of behaviour that's expected of them - by enrolling, they undertake to abide by our policies and regulations.
"If they don't, they'll face the consequences and that ranges from fines to expulsion by the university, which can have a long-term impact on their future employability."
In July, residents groups expressed concerns about plans to tackle ongoing problems in the area, saying they did not go far enough.
Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw said statutory agencies should have been much more visible on the ground in recent nights.
"Belfast City Council have an anti-social behaviour unit and a number of wardens who go out to patrol. They can't have failed to see [what was happening] last night and they have a responsibility to get out there and make sure young people aren't drinking on the streets and aren't creating noise pollution," said Ms Bradshaw.
"The Housing Executive have a landlord registration scheme and when they get reports that tenants are not behaving properly, they have the power to go out and investigate and I think that if a few landlords were being struck off the list, they would soon sort out the tenants living there."
Mr Rogan said all agencies and academic institutions need to work in close partnership to resolve the issue.
"We encourage all residents and members of the public, who witness or experience anti-social behaviour to contact the police or the council noise team. These agencies should then inform the relevant university and on receipt of this information, a dedicated community affairs officer will visit the property the next working day to investigate.
"If Queen's students are involved, they're required to meet with their community affairs manager to establish the facts and if it's then passed to a disciplinary officer, a sanction will be imposed, ranging from a fine of up to £250 on a first offence that's deemed to be minor anti-social behaviour, to a fine of £500 or expulsion for more serious offences."
Editor's Note: Another example of the so-called 'groundhog day syndrome' eight years on!