Henry

Henry McDonald offers his thoughts on events in the Holyland and some solutions Culchie clashing

During the week a number of short-term solutions to the Holy Lands crisis were proffered, such as the expulsion or suspension of the rowdiest and most violent from university. Others have suggested that the PSNI take a more heavy-handed approach to the nightly scenes of drunkenness, lewd behaviour and disorder. They point out, quite correctly, that if these people were working-class youths they would battered off the streets and demonised throughout society as a gang of worthless Chav scumbags, yet because the students are from nice, respectable middle-class homes in the country they are treated with kid gloves.
The only long-term solution to the blight in the Holy Lands is a cultural one – to discourage parochialism. At the heart of it lies the need to break up the pack mentality, to persuade students from rural Northern Ireland, especially nationalist areas, to think of other options of study beyond the North entirely.
Conversely, the two universities might consider putting a cap on the number of indigenous students they take in and vigorously canvass for more students from Britain, the Republic and further afield.

  • Needia

    Loverly-ly put.

  • Davros

    I found it depressing that students maintain the social apartheid.

  • Panda

    Good article.
    However,I don’t think most of the “barnyard boys” would be able to cope with the prospect of a university across the water.
    Not only people of a different religion to cope with but also nationality,colour and outlook would be too much for their parochial brains to take on board.
    Pity, really university shouldn’t only be about getting an education but also developing an open,tolerant and enquiring mind.

  • slackjaw

    In my experience, NI students aren’t actively encouraged to take gap years before heading off to uni. That would help.

  • Fraggle

    Panda, sorry to interrupt your sectarian rant but the students in question seem to get on fine with the chinese population and businesses in the holy lands.

  • carlosblancos

    Eh, its a good article but I still haven’t read a satisfactory explanation as to why its only Catholics from West of the Bann who are largely to blame. I accept that they are slightly more clannish, but this is no different than rural students attending UCD. Difference is that UCD students don’t riot in streets…

    Perhaps its something to do with being away from all their traditional sources of authority (family, school, church) without any replacement (as they appear to have little respect for PSNI)

  • Davros

    the students in question seem to get on fine with the ….. businesses in the holy lands.

    The pubs you mean ? 😉

  • Warm Storage

    Well, they’re hardly liked to be on first-name terms with anyone who works in the University Bookshop…:)

  • Warm Storage

    “likely”.

    Rough weekend…

  • slackjaw

    All this East/West of the Bann nonsense is little more than the narcissism of minor difference.

  • peteb

    WS

    “they’re hardly liked” seems, somehow, much more appropriate. 😉

  • carlosblancos

    Slakjaw,

    Ok maybe they’re not all West of the Bann, but I’m sure that most students in that area (and their accents were clear despite their intoxication) come from rural areas, especially Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh.

    But my main point – why? Anyone got any answers? Saying that its rural students in the city doesn’t explain it – Universities across Ireland are populated by rural students and none have this experience.

  • Fraggle

    Davros, I don’t know if any of the local pubs are chinese owned. I was thinking more along the lines of takaways, restaurants and in particular, the asian supermarket which quite a few students use.

  • slackjaw

    carlosblancos

    First of all, I think it’s a generalisation to say that all of Derry, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh is ‘rural’. Compared with Tokyo or New York, maybe, but not compared with Belfast or Lisburn. There are plenty of urban areas in these counties, and you may find that many of the students you are referring to were born in and schooled in urban areas e.g. Newry, Enniskillen, Derry, Dungannon, Armagh (OK, we’re not exactly talking about sprawling centres of enlightenment here, but I think that the distinction, at least when we are talking about NI, is an important one.)

    Here are my ideas in answer to your question:

    I attended UU at Coleraine for a year, and while there were plenty of students from the aforementioned areas, there was not the same level of drunken buffoonery as encountered in the holy lands.

    I think that this is principally down to two things:

    Ratio of women to men. Released from the single-sex education that has tethered them for the previous 12 years, young bucks are out for some hot lovin’ action. Competition for women among students is a lot higher in Belfast than in Coleraine, hence the manifestations of giddy macho buffoonery.

    Accommodation. I stayed with mates of mine in the holy lands a few times. Drinking is a release from the mankiness of the surroundings – most houses in this area are hovels, and god only knows how one could manage get to sleep sober on the flea-infested mattresses supplied by the cowboy landlords.

  • Panda

    “Panda, sorry to interrupt your sectarian rant but the students in question seem to get on fine with the chinese population and businesses in the holy lands.”
    Up to you to interpret my rants how you want.
    I would have said more of an “anti-smalltown parochialism attitude” rant;their religion or political beliefs is not to blame for their behaviour.
    I can’t speak for Irish universities but in GB, in my experience, those from a rural background purposefully tended to mix more, it was very rare to see groups of them congregating in one area of town like you do in the Holylands.
    The one group who kept together(Scousers if you’re asking) caused more trouble than all the rest of student population put together.

  • Donnie

    Dukes is Asian owned.

  • Davros

    Fraggle: I specifically seperated the businesses from the Chinese community. Of course businesses will “get on with students” … they spend money.

  • Fraggle

    point taken davros.

    however, do you happen to know how many of the recent racist attacks are attributable to students?

    by the way, can you imagine the reaction of the people of donegal pass if some chinese went and slashed the tires of parked cars?

  • Davros

    Fraggle, seperate issues and I’ll point out that I wasn’t one of those who tried to make capital out of the ‘tribal’ allegiances of the students. Not guilty for once 😉 Gender is different. Female students seem far prettier these days than they were in the 70’s. (runs and hides ).

  • carlosblancos

    Slackjaw,

    I’m not going to split hairs about what is rural and what isn’t.

    Accomodation in Dublin is disgusting, yet students there wouldn’t behave like this. And its equally bad in other areas of Belfast which don’t witness such behaviour. As for the ‘ratio of men to women is higher in Belfast’…you got figures for that cos I’d be very sceptical?

    I thinks its more to do with concentration and general lack of authority.

    And many rural schools are co-ed (St Mary’s Grammar M’felt, which came 2nd in Sunday Times list is co-ed) which would dismiss the ‘looking for hot-loving’ argument.

  • willowfield

    It’s surely a combination of concentration, lack of authority AND the Culchie thing.

    There’s something not quite right about the fact that they all seem to know each other.

  • davidbrew

    “I thinks its more to do with concentration and general lack of authority” saith slackjaw

    Agreed, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the troublemakers are from the areas in which policing has been non-existent, and where there is an active culture of opposition to authority, conveniently dressed up as politics -Sinn Fein politics to be precise. The argument as to which came first is like the chicken and egg one (why hasn’t anyone in Queen’s got a grant to research it BTW? ). In many rural towns and villages the communal constraint of the troubles-fear- has long gone but there has been no authority figure to fill the vacuum, except on occasion the implicit threat of paramilitaries, but even that is less effective than before.

    Oh and of course-before anyone cries sectarianism- the same thing would almost certainly apply if there were large concentrations of loyalist youths concentrated in student accommodation, for the same reasons, but that won’t happen because most loyalist communities have abysmally low levels of 3rd level educational achievement, and they are largely Greater Belfast urban communities, and trhus more likely to live at home when studying. The Protestant middle class has sent its children to Great Britain for a multitude of reasons, but one major one is the image of Queen’s Students’ Union.

    But the best comment on this subject is undoubtedly in this week’s Portadown news. Honorary Doctorate for Newt!

  • Davros

    Students will always lark about. What seems to be the difference here is that they have been allowed to get away with Rowdy behaviour in this area and it’s the nature of the young to keep trying to be more and more outrageous.

  • slackjaw

    “I thinks its more to do with concentration and general lack of authority” saith slackjaw

    That was carlosblancos.

    carlosblancos

    I didn’t expect my ideas to be taken too seriously.

    This matter has now been blown out of all proportion. People are now lining up to stick the metaphorical boot into Catholic students from outside the greater Belfast area, just stopping short of characterising them as the enemy within.

    It might be cathartic, perhaps a true cross-community initiative even, to indulge in demonising certain NI students because of where they come from. It is marginally more enlightened than the Paul Calf line of simply hating all students.

    Drunken idiocy has been going on in the holy lands for a long time now, and not enough has been done by the authorities at Queen’s to put a stop to it. Davros is right – in this particular area, students have been allowed to get away with this behaviour for too long.

    But one must reject the notion that the drunken idiocy is symptomatic of a ‘rural’,’nationalist’ upbringing. Nor should the problem be defined in terms of missing authority figures. Those students from these areas who do cause mayhem during the week in the holy lands, in my experience, are far more docile when out drinking in their home towns. And, most of them progress to become responsible, gainfully employed members of society.

    I sympathise greatly with the non-student residents of the holy lands. I have experienced directly the disruption and distress to ordinary working lives caused by student hi-jinks (in Dublin, as it happens, carlosblancos), so I would not seek to diminish what they have had to endure. The issue needs to be addressed urgently.

    However, the people who will suffer most from the inflamed passions that arise from anti-student rhetoric are those students living in that area who wind up in the City Hospital with serious facial and head injuries.

    There are plenty of real hoods out there only too happy to give their seal of approval to anti-student, anti-culchie sentiment by administering a brutal beating to anyone who remotely fits the bill.

  • carlosblancos

    I, for one, am certainly not sticking the metaphorical boot into Catholic students from outside the greater Belfast area. I accept that it is a minority of students are involved and that the protest, bizarre as it was, was more of a ‘lets take a look’ than ‘lets do anything serious.’

    All I asked for was an explanation…and the quest for ‘hot loving’ or ‘a higher male to female ratio than Coleraine’ certainly doesn’t provide one.

    I don’t think anyone said that drunken idiocy is a product of rural nationalism – its normal student living. What people correctly state is ‘student revelry’ rarely manifests itself in the way it did in the Holylands last Tuesday.

    I also don’t think anyone said that other cities are perfect. My own experience in Dublin and abroad show that students are boisterous/noisy.

    The justifaction that the students become ‘responsible gainfully employed members of society’ is an irrelevance, and probably tolerable if they were aged 16. They’re not 16, they’re adults and their future contribution is no justification for present beahviour.

    I agree with David Brewster. And Willowfield is right – strange they all know each other.

  • slackjaw

    carlosblancos

    When I wrote about putting the metaphorical boot into the aforesaid students, I honestly didn’t have you in mind. I was thinking about a certain academic who spoke on a BBC radio programme more or less characterising students from these parts as barbarians.

    I myself have also put the boot in on a couple of occasions over the last week, perhaps inappropriately, so I thought it best to express a more considered response.

    Now, if you want an explanation for why so many turned up last week to the ‘protests’ in the holylands, consider this:

    1. They were probably all pissed.

    2. The drinking had probably started before the Champions League football.

    3. The BBC programme was perhaps a tad sensationalist in the portrayal of its subject to be viewed objectively by groups of rat-arsed 18/19 year olds.

    4. They were intoxicated not only by Buckfast, but by their newly found fame. Perhaps Pop Idol and Big Brother is also to blame.

    Do you require a wider explanation than that?

    Why is it ‘strange’ that they should all know each other? I realise that this is not in common with other universities in Britain and Ireland, but surely the demographics of Northern Ireland, and the tradition for many NI RC students to attend Queens’, means that it would be unusual for them not to know each other?

  • Young Fogey

    I’ve got nothing against drunken revellery whether by students or non-students, Catholics, Protestants, from West or East of the Bann or Belfast. But happened last week was well beyond drunken revellery.

    On the other hand, its not surprising Queen’s is a bit more clannish than other Universities. That’s the nature of Northern Ireland as a society, and slackjaw has rightly pointed out that people just move en masse from Catholic grammar schools to Queen’s, and its easy just to keep hanging around with your mates from school, especially in modularised courses where you may not actually get to know many people through tutorials. About two-thirds of my year at school (in Belfast) went to Queen’s, for example. Still, none of this explains, let alone excuses, what went on the in Holylands last week or what goes on there on a nightly basis.

    There is a bit of unpleasant anti-Clushie Catholic sneering going on here – I’ve seen similar levels of clannishness among middle-class Belfast Prods in Scottish University towns (Tayforth UDR anyone?) The Eton/Winchester/Harrow set tend to hang around together at Durham (according to my mate who went to Eton and then Durham when I explained about all this). Clannishness isn’t restricted to one group or another.

  • carlosblancos

    Young fogey – good point, hadn’t thought of ‘clans’ that hang around together at other universities. Very true when you think about it.

    Slackjaw – so its no longer the search for ‘hotloving’ that caused last weeks antics? 😉

  • slackjaw

    ‘Slackjaw – so its no longer the search for ‘hotloving’ that caused last weeks antics? ;-)’

    carlosblancos

    As I said to you earlier on, I didn’t expect my ideas to be taken too seriously.

    Nevertheless, I think you will find that in UU Coleraine, there is indeed a far higher ratio of women to men than in QUB or UUJ. I am afraid I have no figures on this, but I do remember being told during my year at Coleraine that the ratio of women to men was 5:1. An inflated figure perhaps, but I certainly witnessed, with my lascivious and objectifying male gaze, a substantial difference between student areas.

    On the matter of the co-ed vs. same sex – one, ahem, swallow does not make a summer. There are still plenty of same sex grammar schools out there, and if these no longer exceed the amount of co-ed grammar schools outside the greater Belfast area, I will chow down on my left nut 😉

  • carlosblancos

    I wasnt really taking it seriously. And if what you say about UU Coleraine is true…all I can say is I made the wrong choice for 3rd level education. 😉

  • Davros

    Students cause havoc in Sligo

    and Limerick
    and Cork
    and Dublin
    and on Slugger 😉

  • Davros

    Students cause havoc in Sligo

    and Limerick
    and Cork
    and Dublin
    and on Slugger 😉

  • Fraggle

    it could be concluded that students cause havoc…..

  • Davros

    Fraggle : Ban all students excepy mature students ? 😉

  • Fraggle
  • Fraggle

    trying to see if this hyperlinkingstuff works

  • Fraggle

    define ‘mature’

  • Davros

    Staid ? Old farts like me ? 😉

  • cg

    A few comments

    Carlosblancos
    “without any replacement (as they appear to have little respect for PSNI)”

    Correct the lack of an acceptable or accountable police force to a large majority of students.

    Slack jaw
    “I think you will find that in UU Coleraine, there is indeed a far higher ratio of women to men than in QUB or UUJ”

    Not true of Law in queens which, I’m happy to say, has a ratio of at least 2:1 in favor of the fairer sex (and long may it continue)

    WF
    “There’s something not quite right about the fact that they all seem to know each other.”

    The fact that the top boys and girls grammar schools are located in newry (Sacred heart and Abbey CBS, as well as St Colman’s and Our lady’s) has something to do with it.

    The issues in the holy lands have to be addressed.
    I will not accept the underlined anti-catholic rhetoric coming from some bloggers. This problem has nothing to do with religion or rural upbringing.

  • Davros

    The fact that the top boys and girls grammar schools are located in newry

    a whole generation of Lawyers from Armagh ? The games up for Unionism 😉

    This problem has nothing to do with religion

    Agreed.

    or rural upbringing.

    Takes the Fifth!

  • cg

    “a whole generation of Lawyers from Armagh ? The games up for Unionism ;)”

    LOL
    Too many from Dromintee
    If the current crop all reaches harvest it will make 8 solicitors in a single village. Damn that Nationalist tendency for Education.

    As for unionism I wish it all the best for retirement ; )
    Unionists will always be able to express themselves and keep their identity in a United Ireland. It’s a pity they wouldn’t accept some of their (Rightful) Irish identity as well

  • Davros

    If the current crop all reaches harvest it will make 8 solicitors in a single village.

    Now there’s an interesting study for the future – will the increase of Lawyers in Dromintee (re-named the village of the damned )lead to an increase or a decrease in litigation over the usual small-village squabbles ?

    It’s a pity they wouldn’t accept some of their (Rightful) Irish identity as well

    You guys still don’t get it, do you ? By trying to make them acknowledge it you make them more determined to deny it! The answer’s staring you in the face …start DENYING them their Irish Identity … you’ll be beating them off with a big stick!

  • cg

    “will the increase of Lawyers in Dromintee (re-named the village of the damned )lead to an increase or a decrease in litigation over the usual small-village squabbles ?”

    LOL, quite possibly but people in my village don’t have a great love for courts so possibly not.

    “You guys still don’t get it, do you ? By trying to make them acknowledge it you make them more determined to deny it! The answer’s staring you in the face …start DENYING them their Irish Identity … you’ll be beating them off with a big stick!”

    Davros
    I have no intention of forcing an Irish identity down the throats of unionists. It just saddens me that they felt they could no longer consider themselves Irish.
    My republicanism comes from that of Mitchell and Tone and my republicanism includes all religions and none.
    1892 Ulster Convention, Sign at the back of the hall “Erin go Braith”
    Pity

  • Davros

    cg: I was teasing 🙂 I know you to be a decent chap.

    Interestingly enough, to get back to the rowdyism , I just came across this while checking a reference to do with Identity in NI …

    The Effects of 30 Years of Political Violence on the Construction of Ethnic Identity and Inter-community Relations in Northern Ireland.

    This latest chapter in Ireland’s bloody history meant that a generation of children grew up in a society divided by conflict and sectarian hatred. For researchers and observers of child development, this apparently amoral environment created a worrying canvas for the portrait of Ulster’s children.
    Certainly the first predictions (Fields, 1973, 1976; Fraser, 1972, 1974; Lyons, 1973) painted a particularly foreboding picture of the youth of Northern Ireland emerging morally scared from the years of conflict. Fields (1976, pp. 55) remarked that “the inhabitants of that place (Northern Ireland) are being destroyed both physically and psychologically.” Fraser (1972) suggested that Northern Irish children could become delinquents and develop into amoral adults, while Fields (1973,1976) believed she could already detect the process of “moral truncation” among the children of Northern Ireland. The churches at this time also reported “a catastrophic and terrifying decline in the respect for the sacredness of human life” (Violence in Ireland, 1976, pp. 48).
    Predictions were also made that this amoral society would even outlast the conflict. For example, Lyons (1973, pp. 167) suggested that “when peace returns to Northern Ireland there will be a continuing epidemic of violence and antisocial behaviour amongst teenagers.” This fear was echoed almost a decade later by Curran, Jardine and Harbison (1980, pp. 151): “When peace and stability return, problems of antisocial behaviour among the young may emerge and persist as a major feature of life.”

    Serendipity or what ?

  • cg

    “Lyons”
    Is he the same historian that did a lot of work on the Easter Rising, If it is, he is exceptional.

  • Davros

    Scary stuff though ….

    Odd, no reference given for Lyons at the end.

  • cg

    Is it a case of..
    “He who must not be named”
    😉

  • Davros

    Took a while, but …

    5. Lyons, H. A. (1973). ‘The psychological effects of the civil disturbances on children’, Northern Teacher, Belfast, Winter, 35-8.

  • cg

    Davros
    Bravo 😉

  • Seán Mac Cann

    Part of the problem is that Nationalist students from country areas can’t afford to live in other parts of Belfast or wouldn’t be safe in most other parts that they could live in. Would you walk down Donegall Road or Roden Street with a GAA sports bag? Unlike Dublin or London, there’s nowhere else to go.

    And as for clannishness – that’s endemic to all students. When I was at the college of law in York in 1991, about 75% of the student intake were rich southern English Oxbridge. They lacked nothing in confidence; many had had gap years under their belts and many were from London. Despite that, we all socialised in packs. The good people of York might as well not have existed. The only form of interaction with the locals was on those occasions when, after closing time, some local lads, aggrieved by the loud braying accents of the typical law student, tried to kick in the heads of their Southern countrymen.

    The other point is that most of these kids, their bark is far worse than their bite. Idiotic, but harmless. I’m no hero, and I’ve walked through many of those so-called “disturbances” without ever being bothered. Idiotic, noisy, irritating, but hardly the end of the world.

    Unlike, say, rich rugger students in Dublin who aren’t above stomping on students’ heads until they’ve murdered them. Doesn’t matter though, as there were no witnesses and the equally middle-class judicial system in Dublin bent over backweards to let them off the hook; except, ironically, for one Monaghan student

    By contrast, I was mugged twice at Uni, on both occasions by urban Belfast skinheads who prowled the city centre at evenings, waiting to attack students. Can’t recall there being too much official concern about those clowns either.

    Mcdonald’s article lacks balance. You could construct a similar argument against any social grouping. McDonald may reckon he’s a sophisticated man of the world, but I reckon his façade is slipping, again.