Northern Ireland news

Peter Robinson says leisure centre name change attempt to 'eradicate all vestiges of unionism from Northern Ireland'

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

FORMER DUP leader Peter Robinson has said calls to remove his name from a leisure centre in his former constituency reflect efforts “to eliminate every vestige of unionism in Northern Ireland”.

While the party has still not responded to The Irish News about the petition calling for the name change at the Montgomery Road facility, the former East Belfast MP released a statement to BBC’s Nolan Show.

“The naming of the centre was undertaken by Castlereagh Borough Council,” he said.

“I consider it to be an honour, but I am aware there are those who want to eliminate every vestige of unionism in Northern Ireland.”

Plans for the redevelopment of the Robinson Centre in east Belfast

SDLP activist Séamas de Faoite has started a petition calling for the name to be changed following the council’s investment of “£20 million of ratepayers' money in a new state-of-the-art aquatics centre”

Meanwhile, at Monday’s meeting of Belfast City Council, Sinn Féin will table a motion to formally request a name change.

SDLP activist Seamus de Faoite has started a petition calling for a name change.

Councillor Charlene O’Hara, seconded by colleague Órla Nic Biorna, is asking the council to "agree that this facility be renamed in accordance with council policy. The naming of any council facility must be inclusive and welcoming to all.

"The previous centre on this land was named “The Robinson Centre” and was within the Castlereagh Borough Council area... This is a new facility and must come under existing council policy.

Belfast City Council's policy is that a person must be dead for at least five years before any park or leisure facility can be named after them.

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The motion will be referred automatically to the People and Communities Committee.

Alliance councillor Michael Long welcomed the move, while branding it a "pre-election stunt".

"It was my (party) colleagues who opposed the original proposal to change the name from Castlereagh Swimming Pool to the Robinson Centre in the 1980s... (and) proposals such as the awarding of the Freedom of the Borough to Mr Robinson, which resulted in thousands of pounds of ratepayers money being spent on a celebratory dinner, and £4,000 spent on a bronze bust.

"... I am puzzled by the timing of this motion from Sinn Féin given that the centre has been in the ownership of Belfast City Council for over four years and no decision is required in respect of the name until the autumn, when the centre is due to reopen.

"The fact that Sinn Féin has decided to raise the matter now looks like more of a pre-election stunt and an attempt to deflect attention from the main focus of Monday night which will see Sinn Féin and the DUP working together to increase the rates by £500,000 on bonfire-related activities.

"I would also suggest that both their track record and that of the SDLP on naming public spaces is hardly one to follow given the ongoing debacle over Raymond McCreesh park in Newry."

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