Northern Ireland news

Michael D Higgins opens west Belfas's James Connolly Visitor Centre

Michael D Higgins at the official opening of Áras Uí Chonghaile on Falls Road in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins officially opened the new James Connolly Visitor Centre yesterday in west Belfast.

President Higgins delivered a speech at the new centre Áras Uí Chonghaile on Falls Road following a James Connolly pageant parade.

The parade welcomed trade unionists from Ireland, Britain and the US, and involved a brass band and historical period speeches.

Belfast mayor Deirdre Hargey, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O'Grady and Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) assistant general secretary Owen Reidy also spoke at the launch.

Crowds gathered for the opening also enjoyed performances from Frances Black and Terry 'Cruncher' O'Neill.

Mr Higgins earlier signed a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

Last year the visitor centre project was awarded £1m from a Sinn Féin and DUP-backed reallocation of Belfast City Council cash that opponents had branded a "political carve-up".

The disputed plan saw the £4m City Centre Social Outcomes Fund redistributed to nine projects in east and west Belfast, including £80,000 for an Orange Hall museum.

SDLP and Alliance councillors had raised concerns over how the money was awarded without a public bid process, but the DUP and Sinn Féin rejected criticism saying the projects would boost tourism.

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