UL students who attended street party face 'suspension or possible expulsion'

Officials from the university met with gardaí to discuss last night's incident in which five arrests were made and €17.5k of cocaine was seized
UL students who attended street party face 'suspension or possible expulsion'

A screengrab from one of the videos of the street party.

University of Limerick students found to have attended the gathering in College Court last night face suspension, pending a full investigation, or possible expulsion from their university.

Officials from UL and An Garda Síochána met this Wednesday to discuss the incident that took place last night.

In a statement, the university confirmed it is conducting an investigation to identify any students who took part in the gathering.

“Students at UL are subject to a Code of Conduct. Any student found to have attended the gathering will face suspension, pending a full investigation, or possible expulsion.” 

The university said it has consistently worked with gardaí to remind students of their personal responsibility to follow government and institutional guidelines.

“UL has provided resources for high visibility Covid-19 Garda policing with a focus on estates in the immediate vicinity of the campus.” 

“UL deplores the behaviour of a small minority of students living in the off-campus estates in private rented accommodation.”

Cocaine estimated to be worth €17,500 was seized last night in Limerick during the course of garda operations at a street gathering in the College Court, Castletroy area of the city. 

Two men have been arrested in connection with the drugs seizure. 

This brings the total number of arrests made last night to five after gardaí confirmed three previous arrests. 

Gardaí have also confirmed that 50 fixed charge penalty notices were issued as a result of the street party in Limerick last night.

Of the five arrests made, one man has now been charged with a public order offence and is due to appear before Limerick District Court on March 22. 

Another has been released without charge but has been issued a fixed charge notice for public order offences.

The third, who was arrested under the misuse of drugs legislation is still in custody at Henry Street Garda station.

The two arrests announced this afternoon are also detained at Henry Street Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996.

Cocaine seized in the search is thought to be worth €17,500, pending analysis, and was discovered following the search of a vehicle with the assistance of a detective dog from the Southern Region Garda Dog Unit. €800 in cash was also seized. 

The discovery was made after the activities of a number of men and a vehicle in the area was brought to the attention of the gardaí.

Street party

The incident occurred in the Castletroy area of Limerick City, which is heavily populated by students of the University of Limerick.

One local resident told the Irish Examiner that "hundreds" of students began congregating outside from Tuesday afternoon, and that gardaí arrived at the scene shortly after 7.30pm

Footage shared on social media showed fireworks being discharged on the street and a separate clip showed dozens of people singing and dancing, most without masks.

Gardaí confirmed that officers in Henry Street received reports of a street party taking place on Carysfort Avenue, College Court, Castletroy, and that a policing operation was put in place and a significant number of Garda units attended the scene.

"Following continued and orchestrated non-compliance with Public Health Regulations and failing to comply with directions from An Garda Síochána, gardaí were forced to intervene at approximately 7.15pm," a Garda spokesperson said.

"Three persons were arrested at the scene. Two men (20s) were arrested under the Public Order Legislation and one man (20s) was arrested under Misuse of Drugs Legislation.

"Gardaí have commenced an investigation into identifying the organisers of this event, and as with all breaches of the Public Health Regulations a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions."

One resident said that smaller-scale parties had taken place in the area in recent days, but that these had been confined to people's houses and backyards.

When gardaí arrived at the scene the resident said of the people who had gathered outside: "They just ran everywhere."

One resident, who lives on the estate where the “street-party” took place said the scenes over the past 24 hours were “like there was no pandemic at all”.  

“There has been a party going since about 11pm on Monday. It got bigger and was brought on the street at around 5 today. There were 30 to 40 people, all young and very loud, outside the house until the gardaí showed up.”

The resident said most of the people then took off running, further into the estate, while one individual stayed and argued with gardaí until he was seemingly detained.

“They were standing around in a circle, letting fireworks off. It’s almost as if they want to end up in hospital,” said the resident, who added they all are fed up in the neighbourhood.

“We thought the one upside to the pandemic is we would have some peace and quiet. How wrong we were. It’s not just the students, College Court has become an open-air nightclub for half the city.” 

Such gatherings are prohibited under laws aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 and gardaí have the power to hand down fines to people who attend.

Community relations

The Interim President of UL, Prof Kerstin Mey, tweeted that the university would take "strong disciplinary measures against any student who has been found to have breached public health guidelines", adding that all students are subject to a code of conduct.

Gardaí said they have a close and positive working relationship with the authorities and community in the University of Limerick and will continue to provide high visibility patrols in the vicinity of the UL campus and surrounding residential areas to check compliance to Covid-19 regulations and keep the community safe.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the scenes witnessed in Limerick last night cannot be repeated.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show, Ms McEntee said the event that took place in College Court was very “disappointing” : “I understand that this is very difficult, but we cannot see scenes happening again last night. It’s very disappointing for the people who live in that area but also for everybody else who has been trying so hard over the last year.

“I do firmly believe that the end is in sight.”

Limerick Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan told Newstalk Breakfast there were not enough police patrolling the area.

“It's not being properly policed, there's not enough police around the place,” he said. “There's guards in Castletroy all the time at one checkpoint, everybody knows where they are. They need to be patrolling the estate, they need to be handing out fines and they need to be challenging people as to whether they have to be in the area of Castletroy or whether they could be at home or working from home.” 

Cllr Hartigan, who spoke to local residents after last night's events said they are “at the end of their tether in there” and the partying from some students is constant.

“The noise is constant out of College Court, day and night. Any time you go past, the boom boom noise is coming out.

“It's having a devastating effect on local residents. I was in there yesterday talking to people, they're worn out. There's a lot of older people that live in the estate who are trying to restrict their movements themselves. They find it very difficult with large amounts of students walking around and people can't sleep at night with the noise levels in the area.” 

Another local councillor, Labour's Elena Secas, tweeted: "Unacceptable behaviour by students in Castletroy this evening. Total lack of respect for the local community who have been trying so hard to stay safe during these difficult times."

OUTBREAKS

The chaos in College Court comes amidst a student outbreak that has seen almost 280 confirmed Covid-19 cases to date.

As of March 3, there are 276 confirmed Covid-19 cases associated with the current student outbreak in Limerick.

“We see the negative impact the pandemic has had on young people and we see the enormous sacrifices students have made over the past year,” said Dr Marie Casey, a specialist in public health medicine at the HSE Department of Public Health Mid-West.

Dr Casey has been involved in managing all outbreaks among students in the Mid-West since the start of the pandemic.

“But we are at a crucial stage of this pandemic where we have the ability to bring cases to low levels while our most vulnerable get vaccinated.

"A lot of young people do not show symptoms if infected with this virus, which is why it is important to stay apart, avoid household visits and social gatherings of any kind, particularly during this current outbreak.

"We have seen on previous occasions how small social gatherings have led to secondary outbreaks in nursing homes, workplaces, and households with vulnerable family members.” Students are encouraged to contact the UL Student Health Centre or their GP if they are showing even the mildest of symptoms.

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