Republican event at Whiterock leisure centre breached council’s conditions of hire (NewsLetter)

Belfast City Council says a republican event in one of its leisure centres was clearly in breach of terms and conditions, after critics objected to use of a Sinn Fein banner, replica weapons and paramilitary flags.

The event, in Whiterock Leisure Centre on Saturday, was strongly condemned yesterday by the Alliance Party, SDLP and DUP.

Questions were originally raised on Sunday by TUV leader Jim Allister and Belfast City Council said yesterday his concerns were indeed justified.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: “This booking was not made by a political party, however what happened on Saturday evening is a clear breach of our terms and conditions of hire.

“Council is currently investigating this and a report will be brought back to the next meeting of the Parks and Leisure Committee on April 10.”

The council agreed to an event booked by Cumann Spoirt an Phobail for a community celebration event in the fields of sport, culture and development, which included a bar.

Alliance justice spokesman Stewart Dickson voiced his opposition to what he described as “an IRA display that took place in Whiterock Leisure Centre on Saturday”.

He added: “I am opposed to any event that would seek to glorify terrorism, but I am particularly concerned that this event took place in a council leisure centre.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said a poster for the event featured armed men and photographs from the evening showed a 
colour party.

“It is essential that all council facilities are open to all sections of our community – a political event is not appropriate and will only discourage people from using our leisure centres,” he said.

Belfast City Council DUP group leader Lee Reynolds called for a council and police investigation into the event.

“The decorations for the event had terrorist imagery – including some especially painted for the event, flags of proscribed organisations and replica weapons,” he said.

Mr Allister yesterday condemned both recent violence in Larne and the IRA event, which he said was “a terror fest celebrating the murders of IRA volunteers”.

However, Sinn Fein defended the event, describing it as “a respectful commemoration held in the heart of west Belfast involving a community that has suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict”.


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