Northern Ireland news

DUP silent as petition urges removal of Peter Robinson's name from leisure centre

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson, and the old Robinson Centre which is being redeveloped by Belfast City Council
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP remained silent yesterday on calls to remove former party leader Peter Robinson's name from a new leisure centre as an online petition gathered pace.

It comes after The Irish News on Monday revealed Belfast City Council (BCC) has declared that the Robinson Centre's name will not be changed following legal advice.

The council said the name had been deemed not to breach its policy on naming public leisure facilities.

The old Robinson Centre on Montgomery Road has been demolished and the site is being redeveloped into a new multi-million-pound leisure facility.

It was originally named after Mr Robinson in the 1980s by Castlereagh Borough Council when he was a councillor and MP aged in his mid-thirties.

The centre was transferred to BCC in 2015 after the previous 26 local authorities were merged into 11 'supercouncils'.

In July, SDLP activist Séamas de Faoite asked the council whether the name complies with its policy, which states that leisure facilities can only be named after people deceased for at least five years or who have made a significant financial contribution to the facility.

In a letter responding last month, BCC's director of city and neighbourhood services Nigel Grimshaw said the name does not breach policy as the redevelopment is a "replacement of the previous Robinson Centre and not a 'new' facility".

Mr Grimshaw added that any proposal to re-name a facility should be requested through a council committee and must be accompanied by consultation evidence which "demonstrates that there is substantial community support for the proposed name change".

Mr de Faoite has since set up an online petition calling for a new name for the Robinson Centre, which has so far gained more than 100 signatures.

The former East Belfast assembly candidate said BCC has a responsibility to "stop ratepayers' money being used to further political ego trips".

Sinn Féin has also joined calls for the name to be changed, with party councillor Ciarán Beattie saying the centre is a "new facility and must come under existing council policy".

"The naming of any council facility must be inclusive and welcoming to all," he said.

The DUP was asked whether it would oppose a name change for the facility, but the party yesterday did not respond to requests for a comment.

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