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University of Limerick president warns students they could be expelled over street party near college

Covid-19 case numbers among those aged 19-24 “continue on a downward trend” despite incidents like this, Dr Ronan Glynn has said.

A screengrab from a video of the street parties on social media
A screengrab from a video of the street parties on social media
Image: Snapchat

Updated Mar 3rd 2021, 7:44 PM

THE PRESIDENT OF the University of Limerick (UL) is meeting with gardaí today after large groups of people were filmed drinking and gathering near the college’s campus.

Three people were arrested and more than 50 people have been fined after gardaí responded to a public order incident in the Carysfort Avenue area of Castletroy yesterday.

One of those arrested has been charged and will appear before Limerick District Court on 22 March. Another man has been released and fined, while a third man arrested under misuse of drugs legislation remains in custody.

Videos shared on social media showed big groups of individuals flouting Covid-19 social distancing guidelines on the streets in the area.

The deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, has said that despite a “small number of high profile incidents”, data shows case numbers continuing to decline among those aged 19-24. 

“While we see headlines about young people on the streets, what we don’t see are the thousands of young people who are working hard to minimise the spread of [Covid-19] in their homes and their communities,” Dr Glynn said on Twitter.

UL warned last night that it would take disciplinary action against any of its students who were found to have breached public health rules.

In a statement this morning, the university confirmed that its president, Professor Kerstin Mey, was meeting with senior gardaí to discuss the matter.

Mey warned that any student found to have broken the university’s code of conduct could face temporary suspension or expulsion.

The code of conduct states that students must not engage in any activities that could bring the university into disrepute, including off-campus.

“We have appealed to our students time and again to recognise their personal responsibility in following public health restrictions,” Mey said.

“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.”

The university’s students’ union also issued a statement this afternoon describing the scenes as “completely unacceptable”, saying they disregarded public health guidelines.

“UL Student Life strongly condemns the indefensible actions of the students involved,” the statement read.

“UL Student Life will fully support the university in taking strong disciplinary action for any student who has been found in breach of public health guidelines.”

A resident living in the area where crowds gathered told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme that he estimated he saw around 100 students on the street from around 2.30pm yesterday.

“It is understandable that those guys are living in the pandemic since last year, it is tough mentally for them,” he said.

“We are all waiting for pubs and clubs to get back to normal life. But at the same time, they should understand that some of them are living with vulnerable people and they have to respect their neighbours.”

Speaking about the controversy at a government briefing this morning, Liz Canavan, Assistant General Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach said that all young people shouldn’t be judged by the actions of a few.

“You will have seen some scenes last night from Limerick. It would be easy to generalise, but it wouldn’t be fair, or it wouldn’t be accurate,” she said.

“The first thing I want to say is that the majority of young people are doing great and they have missed out on a lot.”

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She added that those who were at last night’s event should avail of a Covid-19 test if they feel they are at risk.

“If you’ve slipped up and you were part of last night’s events, the best thing you can do now is come forward for testing if you have any concerns,” she said.

However, junior minister and Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick Niall Collins also told the Today with Claire Byrne programme that the street party was “shocking” and “completely in defiance of public health”.

“A lot of people are struggling at home, a lot of students can’t get to the college, can’t avail of on-campus and have the college experience. And here we have a small minority of students who are bringing the whole system into disrepute, it’s shocking.”

He added that the reports of teenage children being involved means there is responsibility among a range of individuals.

“There’s responsibility that has to be taken on a whole number of levels, obviously personal responsibility, parental responsibility, and there’s the responsibility obviously of the University of Limerick to try and manage and hold their students to account.”

The Irish Universities Association also appealed to students across the country to abide by public health guidelines and to avoid congregating in large groups.

“It is recognised that the overwhelming majority of students are abiding by the guidelines and, thereby, safeguarding their own health and that of their families, friends and the wider community,” a statement said.

“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.”

- Contains reporting by Rónán Duffy. Comments have been closed as an individual has been charged by gardaí.

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