I think of Gerry McCormack as a smug, fat, grey Nero who fiddles as the Holyland burns. He sat, addressing a meeting with his back to us, and fiddled with imaginary game consoles.
"We had 30 complaints from one individual about students next door playing computer games. Now I don't think that merits expulsion, or a fine, or a disciplinary. If we expel someone from university, we're giving them a life sentence."
This was at a meeting to discuss St Patrick's Day.
"How many students, have you disciplined?", asks a resident.
"This year we and UU have disciplined 218 of which 50 were fined. Our system is meant to be transparent, accountable...blah...blah...blah"
"We...at...U..U...take...discipline...very...seriously", says Una Calvert in that slow, ponderous voice that...fakes...sincerity...but...shows...she...doesn't...give...a...fuck.
I have much to say about the PACT meeting, and want to spread it over several articles to tease out the issues and savour the absurdity of the whole thing.
How many students, bar St Patricks Day, have you expelled for anti-social behaviour?"
Gerry's proud of this and incites the wrath of the articulate graduate from Queens,
"Since I graduated in 2001 I've noticed it gets worse every year. These people have no respect for anyone. We have to make it clear that if you're going to behave like an animal you will lose the opportunity to complete a third level education."
Until a week ago such views would have been considered extreme. I've been called that for voicing them. Now we've had our wake-up call.
"These people have filmed themselves and put it on YouTube", voices the chairman with passion,"I would like to think that people identified from these videos would be expelled"
Gerry's not listening. He's playing with his imaginary games console.
"We saw students coming out of court giving one fingered salutes".
It's the graduate. His shock and disgust pour out with admirable force.
Una's right. She doesn't say it'll never be students, unless they're working class and therefore scapegoatable.
"Why were people taken into a prison van and then released?"
"We only have 15 cells in South and East Belfast."
Gordon the new, new, new inspector informs us. These people come and go so fast I can't keep track of them.
"We take their details and then let them go to come back and be processed later."
"There's an empty jail up the Crumlin Road you can use!!"
She may be a pensioner, but she's no dope.
The teachers in Botanic Primary School were so scared for the children they canceled the clubs meetings. They had despaired of calling the cops to deal with the mob of hostile "students" floating around outside. They called the parents to come and collect their terrified children. Thursday was an exception, not because of the menace that oozes from our "students" like sweat. What was different was the presence of four landrovers in the area; tactical support units. What's interesting is that their presence was felt necessary then, 2 days after the "cultural event", but not today, or tomorrow or any other day that these people own the streets and act out their dominance day and night under the noses of cops who drive on by, legitimising it with their deliberate inaction.
Jimmy Spratt pulls Gordon on resources. He can't get an answer other than that the Holyland has the largest single share of manpower in the sector; at least they did last week. Normal service will be resumed shortly. Jimmy's angry at Gordon's evasions, and is taking this to Orde at the next policing board. I hope Hugh has his figures ready. Jimmy's on a warpath, but as we'll see in later articles, he's easily fooled by the whole "partnership" number. I like Jimmy. I never thought I'd say that about a DUPer.