POLITICIANS have called on the heads of the Northern Irish universities to punish students who took part in riots in Belfast on St Patrick’s Day. Over 19 people were arrested for the incidents with eight of those being charged with public order offenses. Reports on the other eleven people are being prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.
According to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), two officers were injured during the disturbances while a number of vehicles were also damaged during the confrontation between drunken students and police. Officers were pelted with bottles, fireworks and other missiles and had to form a line to keep back the troublemakers while almost every one of the hundreds of Belfast City Council wheelie bins in the area were upturned and emptied during the day.
To further investigate the incidents, a special PSNI unit has been set up to help identify those involved in the riots. They plan to work alongside representatives from the universities and look at hours of CCTV footage of the drunken disturbances in the area. There has been claims made that the police had overreacted to the incidents but this was rejected by the PSNI who stated that their response was fair and proportionate to what happened.
The incidents occurred when officers moved in to clear revellers from a number of house parties which had spilled onto the streets. It has been reported that hundreds of people were involved in the all-day parties.
Politicians in the area have branded the behaviour of students in the area as ‘outrageous’. They said they intended to ensure that the universities pursue the trouble makers and properly discipline them. Others have demanded that those involved should be expelled from Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and from Belfast Metropolitan College.
However, so far only one of the 19 people arrested has been confirmed to be a student enrolled at the University of Ulster. Once the student’s case has been dealt with by the courts, he faces further action by the university. A spokesperson for the University of Ulster said that a disciplinary hearing for bringing the university into disrepute would be likely to follow any conviction.
The incidents occurred in the Holylands residential area which is made up mostly of students. Similar incidents have occurred in recent years when students engaged in riotous and violent behaviour. These incidents have led to running tensions with other residents, with some people leaving the district as a result.