Mother forced to flee her home as Holylands parties escalate

Police have been visible on the ground on Wednesday after hundreds of students flouted social distancing guidelines Credit: UTV

A mother of three young children has had to flee her home in the Holyland in the middle of the night because of the noise and partying in the streets. Catherine McDaid says she won't return on Wednesday, anxious that the students will cause more disorder in the area of South Belfast.

I just took the kids and went on. They had to go down to their granny's house. I shouldn't have to leave my own home ... but it's just a losing battle

Catherine McDaid, young mum
Catherine McDaid had to take her child out of her home at 2:30am due to the noise Credit: UTV

Dangerous and anti-social house parties in Belfast's Holyland student district will not be tolerated, the health minister has said. Footage showing groups of young people congregating and drinking in the area of terraced housing near Queen's University was "deplorable", Robin Swann added during a press conference.

Coronavirus restrictions in Belfast became legally enforceable by police on Wednesday and repeat offenders face fines of up to £960. The minister said: "It is important that we take swift action because the scenes from last night demand it." A special group including Stormont ministers, police and senior public health experts is meeting to consider their next move. Local residents in the Holyland, known as such because the names of its streets are drawn from the Middle East, have expressed alarm that people congregating ahead of the new academic term could cause a spike in infection. Police have stepped up patrols but until now had limited power to intervene. "The message must go out loud and clear that dangerous anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated," Mr Swann said. "We are on a knife edge. The new regulations are an attempt to strike the right balance." Queen's University and Ulster University have said wrongdoers will be subjected to disciplinary processes and added that strong messages had been conveyed to all new admissions. Mr Swann said the actions were deplorable but did not represent all students or young people. "The Holyland situation does require urgent and co-ordinated action by the authorities, city council and universities." A new ministerial-led group on enforcing Covid regulations has been established. The new university term begins later this month.Jane Loughrey reports:

Some students have felt they have been unfairly treated, and stereotyped by blaming all young people.They feel angry at those not adhering to the government guidelines.

You can't just say there's one student area and they're not following restrictions so all students are the same, but we're not - we are looking after everyone and following the restrictions

Adam McFarland, student

Marc Mallett has this report: