Students from the University of Limerick who attended a street party last night are facing suspension and possibly expulsion for their “deplorable behaviour”, a spokesperson for the college said.
A joint investigation by gardai and UL is currently underway into the large gathering in College Court, Castletroy on Tuesday night.
Three men in their 20s were arrested following the incident, with one man being charged with public order offences. He is due to appear at Limerick District Court on March 22.
Another man, also in his 20s, was released without charge and issued with a fixed charge notice, while another man arrested under the misuse of drugs legislation is still being detained at Henry Street Garda Station.
So far more than 50 fines have been dished out to students in relation to breaches of the Health Act after hundreds gathered for a street party last night.
Gardai are still making enquiries as to how the event was organised, while UL confirmed it is working to identify how many of its students were present.
"The University is conducting an investigation to identify any UL students who took part in the gathering, which represents a serious breach of both the public health restrictions and the institutional code of conduct,” a spokesperson said.
“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.
UL has consistently liaised and 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.”
Videos online showed flares and fireworks being set off amongst large groups of people who gathered to drink in the College Court estate predominantly occupied by University of Limerick students.
Other videos also show large groups running from Garda cars who attended the scene to break up the crowds and people singing and chanting with music being played on speakers in the background.
Limerick currently has the fourth-highest incidence of Covid-19 in the country and Public Health MidWest have recently issued concerns about the spread of coronavirus in housing estates in the city.
UL President Professor Kerstin Mey met with senior An Garda Síochána representatives this morning.
"We have appealed to our students time and again to recognise their personal responsibility in following public health restrictions. However, it is clear that there is a small minority among our 16,500 students who live in off campus estates who are consistently ignoring government and institutional guidelines,” UL said.
Professor Mey said: “Students found to have broken the UL Code of Conduct will face the full rigour of our disciplinary process including temporary suspension and possible expulsion.
“We are fully supportive of An Garda Síochána and remain grateful for a close cooperative partnership with them.”
There are currently around 1,500 students living in the on-campus accommodation at UL, but it is gatherings at off-campus accommodation which have proved problematic in recent weeks.
UL has sanctioned a number of students since January who have been officially reported, investigated and found to have broken the UL Code of Conduct relating to the current Covid-19 environment.
Professor Mey took to Twitter to condemn last night’s scenes.
“UL will take action with strong disciplinary measures against any student who has been found to have breached public health guidelines. Students at UL are subject to a code of conduct,” she said.
Last week, she warned: “To the small minority of students who still believe there is no harm in continuing to gather - you are endangering yourselves, your friends, your families, your community and your university”.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told Independent.ie that the scenes were “completely unacceptable” and “a slap in the face to everyone sacrificing so much”.
“It does a real disservice to all students who abide by the rules day in and out,” he said.
Mr Harris added that he expects separate investigations to be carried out by An Garda Siochana and UL.
Meanwhile, universities have made a joint plea to students to abide by Covid guidelines, warning of the consequences for those who do not.
The Irish Universities Association (IUA) statement came in the wake of reports of public gatherings in Limerick, involving students.
The IUA condemned “unacceptable behaviour of the minority who flout guidelines”.
The universities said they were continuing to work hand-in-hand with student representative bodies to appeal to students to continue to stick to the guidelines both on and off-campus.
But they warned that failure to observe protocols would “result in appropriate disciplinary action being taken in accordance with Codes of Conduct for students.”
The IUA said that the overwhelming majority of students were abiding by the guidelines and, thereby, safeguarding their own health and that of their families, friends and the wider community.
“The small minority who flout the rules will, not only risk the lives and health of other people, but also prolong the lockdown for everyone,” the statement added.
The universities said they understood and shared the frustration of students and of all society in the current prolonged period of restrictions, and also stood with and support those working on the front line to care for those affected by COVID.
“The dedication of our own staff who continue to support higher education as an essential service is also fully recognised and appreciated,“ the IUA added.