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East Belfast FC claims UVF mural concerns a ‘political agenda'

The UVF mural at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

A BELFAST soccer club has claimed concerns over children playing matches beside a UVF mural have been "contrived to a political agenda".

East Belfast FC said "football is for all" and it was disappointed that some had sought to "drag the issue of murals into children's football".

It comes after The Irish News reported concerns over children as young as seven playing soccer near a UVF mural as part of a cross-community Irish Football Association (IFA) programme.

The loyalist paramilitary mural is painted behind Inverary Community Centre where some games are held for the IFA's weekly grassroots initiative for youngsters.

The mural is on the bowling pavilion end of Tommy Patton Park on land owned by Belfast City Council.

A council spokeswoman said it is "working with local representatives to try to resolve this issue".

The IFA said it held games at Inverary for under-10s as it was "the only purpose-built small-sided games centre in Belfast".

A spokesman said coaches regularly put up a temporary banner to cover the mural and create a 'neutral' environment, but in the long-term it was an issue for the council to address.

On Thursday, East Belfast FC, which is based at Inverary, said all children are welcome at the venue.

"The issue of murals is one which affects both communities and is a sensitive political matter," a spokesman said.

"Whilst our club are regularly in dialogue with all community stakeholders, these issues are political and therefore it is not something we want to see brought into football.

"East Belfast FC will continue with our positive community engagement and reaffirm that all children are welcome at Inverary for the weekly cross-community football tournaments."

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