RAG week is upon us and that means the annual conflict between local residents and UCC students is almost upon us too. Following on from a series of complaints from residents after Fresher’s week in September some residents have voiced their concerns in the lead up to RAG week.
The major concerns of residents from Fresher’s week were street drinking, late night parties as well as the litter associated with such parties and street drinking, in particular the broken glass and rubbish which is left on the street afterwards. When asked about any reoccurring problems residents highlighted that reoccurring parties and rubbish were a major problem up until the party on Magazine road, a video of which was posted onto YouTube. Residents have noted a decline in night time activities in the area, despite no increase in Garda patrols except for the week immediately after the video was posted online. However in recent weeks there has been a particular increase in parties in the area. SU president Aiden Coffey when asked about this suggested that this may be because of students having exams at Christmas in addition to the usual Summer exams as has become the norm with semesterisation. Coffey pointed out that as a result there has been a front-loading of social activity around Fresher’s week and other concentrations around RAG week and other occasions during the year.
The main expectations of residents of residents is support for their community, in the words of one resident:
this is not a student area as it is sometimes termed and used to negate the existence of us, the residents. As residents we are the only constant element that ensures the area does not fall into chaos. This statement may sound extreme but after experiencing many events for the past twelve years we now unfortunately only expect the worst. We would like to live in an area where residents and students can live and co-exist in harmony
Such a statement may strike many as being odd as students are a constant presence in such areas albeit a much smaller presence during the Summer months. However it is of course important to note that residents do too have rights as resident, property owners and in some cases as landlords. However as SU president Coffey argued in order for there to be harmony between residents landlords must recognise that they have responsibilities and a role in the community and must take action to ensure that their tenants are behaving responsibility in the community.
One problem that has been identified is the issue of blame and lack of communication between the relevant parties, the Gardaí, UCC, landlords, residents and students etc. This lack of communication one resident claims has “Polarised the situation more” and attributes the breakdown in communication to the last Head of Student Experience who “actively dismantled the community forums established by Dr Michael Byrne”. On this topic SU President Aiden Coffey did admit this was an issue took seriously and was working hard to re-establish communication forums again. He also pointed out some of the problems with punishing UCC students responsible for any illegal acts or anti-social behaviour, if the Gardaí don’t act or punish those responsible then that makes it very difficult for UCC to take any action. Residents claim that the Gardaí now “do not have the resources and do not patrol” for example “on the night of the video there were six calls to the Guards before 11.30pm (a Garda who took the call told us this and the party had been going on since 8:00pm) yet it wasn’t till after this that a patrol arrived. On arrival with the crowds still in the area no arrests took place (this too is on video) it is hard to have faith in the Guards. The only unusual thing about that party was it was filmed by residents. If this incident happened in Patrick Street there would have been multiple arrests.”
On the UCC side the SU is doing what is can and is planning numerous awareness campaigns designed for providing advice to students and residents alike on suitable precautions and actions to take in the build-up to and during RAG week. President Coffey also advised that the Student Community Support group would be out during RAG week. Overall President Coffey is hoping for a RAG week that is safe for everyone above all else and also enjoyable for students and is working hard to make that happen. In the longer term of the conflict between residents and students over social activities and RAG week seems unlikely to be resolved this year and will certainly require a great deal of work and co-operation over the coming weeks and months.