The University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett today welcomed the fact St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the student area of Belfast passed off relatively peacefully.
Professor Barnett said: “The University of Ulster has in conjunction with a number of our partners in the Holylands Inter-Agency Group been working very hard over the past year to encourage a more responsible attitude to community relations among our students and I am pleased there was no repeat of last year’s disturbances. We will review yesterday’s events with stakeholders to see what lessons can be drawn.
“I would like to commend the president of the University of Ulster’s Students’ Union Adrian Kelly and his student union colleagues for the leadership they have shown throughout the year and the support he has given our community’s relations efforts in the Holyland area of Belfast. I would also like to thank our Community Relations Officer for all the hard work she has put in in the Holylands throughout the year.
“There is no doubt their efforts, along with the efforts of their counterparts in QUB and Belfast Metropolitan College helped defuse potentially difficult situations yesterday. The PSNI worked very well with students’ leaders and university staff to contain the situation and we appreciate their efforts.
“While progress was made yesterday, we also have to acknowledge the situation in the Holylands continues to cause considerable distress to local residents and we will continue to work with them to look at a long term solution. Yesterday was only a sticking plaster and there will need to be a long term solution.
“It will require local MLAs and the Northern Ireland Executive across a number of government departments working with the stakeholders throughout the year to tackle in a concerted way the wider issues which undoubtedly have contributed to this situation. These include finding a viable long term solution to the Holylands, dealing with the binge drinking culture and confronting the issue of the planning regulations which have led to high concentrations of houses of multiple occupancy in the area.
“Along with other stakeholders, the University will continue to work throughout the year to ensure our students continue to act responsibility towards the communities in which they live and ensure they are aware of the consequences of anti-social behaviour.”
Professor Barnett noted students from the University of Ulster and QUB enjoyed a day-long programme yesterday of activities and entertainment centred on QUB Student Union.
The Vice-Chancellor congratulated all the agencies and stakeholders who contributed to making the St Patrick’s Day Festival a success, including QUB, both Students’ Unions, the PSNI and the City Council.