Saturday 23 March 2019

‘Now people can see how bad student parties get’

Video of rowdy sing-song goes viral, but it's locals feeling ill, writes Ralph Riegel

A late-night student party at Magazine Road in Cork
A late-night student party at Magazine Road in Cork

Ralph Riegel

Paddy Hayes knows the fears of homeowners who live near major colleges and universities.

He has learned to dread bank holidays, freshers' week, rag week, Christmas and most major sporting occasions involving an Irish team.

His favourite time of the year is summer - not for the weather, but because his area is largely student-free.

October 15 was no different to a myriad other occasions for Paddy and other residents of Cork's Magazine Road, an area that for decades has been associated with student accommodation for University College Cork (UCC).

On Magazine Road, you could be in any mature residential area near University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway or the University of Limerick.

The only difference was that on October 15, a rowdy student party which ended up with dozens of youngsters roaring and singing on the street, was caught on a smartphone video.

The video was subsequently posted on YouTube and now has close to 100,000 'hits'.

"We thought long and hard about putting the video up because we are very proud of our area. We choose to live here.

"But we felt that we had to take a hit in a bid to get this sorted out so that we can live in peace," local resident Catherine Clancy explained.

The video depicted students drinking while sitting on a wall outside a property, roaring Irish anthems, throwing bottles and then dragging rubbish bins into the street which are then kicked open, scattering rubbish everywhere.

The video sparked a national debate about student behaviour, resident's rights, landlord responsibilities and the use of alcohol by youngsters.

It was condemned by students' groups, not only in UCC but right across Ireland.

Yet it didn't end the excessive partying culture, with gardaí and Cork fire brigade having to be called to a rowdy party in Bishopstown, near the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) campus, last Thursday evening.

The events of October 15 left Paddy afraid to be photographed or have his home identified.

"I went public because for once people could see for themselves what we have been living with up here for years," he explained.

"I'm blue in the face from telling people how bad some of the student parties are up here.

"Now they can look and see for themselves."

"No one should have to live with this on their doorstep.

"There are times when we feel like prisoners in our own homes, afraid to even go out at night. It shouldn't be like that. I shouldn't feel afraid in my own neighbourhood."

Magazine Road Residents Association (MRRA) has made repeated complaints to UCC, the gardaí and Cork City Council about the behaviour of a minority of students.

The incidents have ranged from students having sex in public, defecating in residents' gardens, staging all-night parties, intimidating elderly locals through their behaviour and drinking and littering an area where people take pride in their community.

Lord Mayor Councillor Chris O'Leary has intervened in the row and warned that anti-social behaviour by students will not be tolerated.

Cork City Council officials are now studying the video footage with a view to taking action over litter issues.

Gardaí took the names of several of the rowdiest party-goers but it remains unclear whether any action will result.

The property involved is leased to seven female students and is handled by agents, Prime Letting, for landlord Des Whelan.

Mr Whelan, who lives in Blackrock, declined to comment to the Irish Independent or specify what action, if any, will be taken against the tenants over the behaviour on Magazine Road.

"I'd prefer not to make any comment on the matter at this time," he said.

Students living nearby said it was not the tenants, but blamed youngsters visiting the party for the trouble.

"That's the problem with house parties - it is not the people living in the house who cause the trouble, it is the people who arrive with friends. They don't live there, so they just don't care," one girl living in nearby Highfield said.

Magazine Road residents, Rose Walsh and Paul O'Gorman pointed out that it is only a minority of students involved.

"There were three girls in a nearby house who were students and they were also afraid of what was going on.

"They came out onto the road that night and apologised to us for what other students were doing," Rose said.

"Later, when the residents began to clean up the area after the bins had been kicked open, they came out onto the street and helped us," she added.

UCC Students' Union condemned the scenes in the video and warned that such behaviour cannot be tolerated.

However, UCCSU president Aidan Coffey said their response options are limited.

"Of course, this is unacceptable. But there is only so much we can do."

UCCSU support a Campus Watch programme and regularly brief students about anti-social behaviour being unacceptable.

In some cases, students identified as posing behavioural problems can receive warnings from the union.

But it is ultimately left to the gardaí, and occasionally solicitors, to sort out the resultant mess.

UCC officials admitted that the college will not be getting directly involved in what is viewed as a non-campus matter.

However, both UCC and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) have found themselves at the centre of issues over student behaviour for almost 20 years.

Togher gardaí confirmed that in one case in 2014 they had to order the landlord of a Bishopstown property to drive 70km from his home to attend the property, where 90 students were attending a party at 3am.

Another landlord, whose property was not involved in the recent incidents and asked to be unnamed, said there are simple contractual measures to control misbehaviour.

"In my contract, I specifically include a clause, it's actually No 11 on the contract, where I warn that any breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act of 2004 through repeated anti-social behaviour which upsets local residents can result in the termination of the rental contract with the tenants liable for the full rent owing," he said.

The landlord specifically pointed out that any behaviour "which interferes with other people's peaceful occupation… that causes fear, danger, injury, damage or loss" is considered to be anti-social.

Irish Independent

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