Residents wary of student return
Residents living near UCC have criticised the communication structures in place before the start of the college year, and the lack of presence of vintners and landlords in the existing forums.
A meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Monday this week saw presentations from officers and academics from University College Cork and Cork Institutue of Technology as well Angelsea and Togher Garda districts.
However, residents described the meeting as “nothing new” and that the communication structure as inadequate.
“We’re quite apprehensive as the communication structure still isn't there between the residents and the guards and the colleges,” said one resident, David O’Donovan of Magazine Road.
“The consequences in terms of UCC are very unclear. Because after a student is sanctioned, what actually happens with Campus Watch and if you go to the Head of Department what happens from there as well?”
Local residents listened to a presentation from Superintendent Barry McPolin on the various ways that the authorities are dealing with disturbances. These include a tightening of formal rebukes to those students that are causing disturbances, with a written warning issued to the landlord after the first complaint as compared to the third previously.
Gardaí were keen to press that criminal sanctions against those who persistently cause disturbances would have serious effects on students’ lives in the future. Included in actions being taken by Gardaí is a clamp down on on-street drinking, with 179 fines issued last year and 128 paid. On-street drinking fines have already been increased to €75.
President of the UCC Students’ Union, Eoghan Healy, admitted that there will be incidents in the forthcoming year as residents brace themselves for the 18,000 strong population to return.
“We have 4,000 incoming first year students,” he explained.
“I will be emailing all of them and there will be a big drive to point out that they are part of a community. It is not an ‘us and them’ situation. I would also encourage residents to try to get know their new neighbours, it is far more difficult to make noise at 3am when you know who lives next door.”
Residents’ Associations expressed disappointment with the delay in introducing CCTV in problem areas around the university, something that has been in the pipeline for the last three years. City Manager Tim Lucey confirmed that tenders have been received for the camera and that it is hoped they will be processed in time.
However the biggest disappointment for the stakeholders present was the absence of landlord representation and vintners.
“Our main difficulty is that there was no vintners and landlords weren’t represented," said David O’Donovan.
“Ourselves as residents' associations could come in and observe but had no active participation. There seems to be a differential between what happens in one area and the in terms of consequences and action taken by the guards.”
“I’m disappointed that property owners didn’t turn up today,” said Fine Gael Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer.
“They should be here. They have a responsibility and a critical role to play. It is a minority of landlords that fail in their duties in regard to litter collection, fire and safety and health and safety. We must go after absentee landlords who do not take their role seriously. It is not good enough that they are not here.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Kenneth O’Flynn insisted that the vast majority of landlord are responsible landlords and called for the vintners to be present and accountable, while criticising the low cost of beer cans and naggins of vodka.
“The publicans and off-licences have an important role to play,” said Cllr O’Flynn.
"There is no engagement from them on the issues that we are talking about. We need to engage more with the drinks industry and with the transport authorities who are also not here.”
Superintendent in Togher, Charlie Barry, outlined his zero tolerance approach to disturbance at high activity time such as the traditional Christmas Party at the end of November. Arrests rose from 2008 to 2010 when the zero tolerance and objections to licences resulted in just two arrests being made in 2011.