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Belfast councillor hits out at PSNI 'inconsistency' over running events

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker
Brendan Hughes

POLICE are facing claims of "inconsistency" for facilitating a community run in west Belfast but not doing the same for one planned in the north of the city.

It follows a row over authorities saying that 'Run the Walls' – a 5k run through north Belfast – cannot go ahead on August 22 as planned because not enough notice was given.

Earlier this week, police said organisers "must apply and give notification to the local council" following legislation introduced last year giving councils responsibility for handling road closures for community events.

Belfast City Council (BCC) also said it needs three months' notice to process an application and consult bodies including the PSNI, and "cannot make any exception".

However, it has emerged that just weeks ago a run went ahead in west Belfast without a formal application to BCC.

The Féile 10k was held on August 5 as part of the west Belfast festival, Féile an Phobail.

BCC said it "had not received an application" in relation to the Féile 10k. However, the PSNI contended that BCC held a meeting in June "in respect of proposed road closures for the Féile 10k".

Run the Walls, part of the Ardoyne and Marrowbone Community Festival, was aimed at helping improve community relations from Woodvale, Ardoyne and Oldpark.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker, a member of the festival committee, said organisers were "very angry and deflated" and he questioned the disparity in approach.

"The fact that we heard that police did facilitate this in west Belfast but won't do it in north Belfast shows inconsistency in policing," he said.

"I think it's very unprofessional for police do do this and they have certainly let the local community down in north Belfast.

"Questions need to be asked as to why this happened and why the north Belfast event was blocked.

"I think they should change their position and make this event happen next week."

When asked about the Féile 10k, a BCC spokeswoman said: "Belfast City Council did not receive an application from the organisers of this event and we have no enforcement powers should events proceed without one.

"If this event is planned for next year, the council would expect to receive an application within the appropriate timescales. We provide guidance for event organisers on our website."

However, PSNI superintendent Melanie Jones said in a statement: "The PSNI are aware that Belfast City Council hosted a meeting on June 26 in respect of proposed road closures for the Féile 10k run on August 5.

"It is solely the responsibility of the organisers to ensure any road closure application is progressed through Belfast City Council.

"The PSNI appreciates all new processes and procedures represents a significant change for event organisers and the district councils who handle applications, however we continue to work with local councils to educate and support event organisers in respect of their obligations in terms of initial road closure applications being made."

The Irish News asked both BCC and the PSNI to give further details to clarify their differing statements, but both were unable to provide further responses.

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