Northern Ireland news

Peter Robinson 'vanity project' confined to history as council backs leisure centre name change

Belfast's Robinson Centre was demolished and renamed the Lisnasharragh Centre

THE SDLP activist who spearheaded the campaign to rename east Belfast's Robinson Centre has welcomed a council decision to call the £20m facility the Lisnasharragh Centre.

Belfast City Council's strategic policy and resources committee yesterday rejected a DUP proposal to retain the name, which was given to the centre by Castlereagh Borough Council in the 1980s.

It was originally named in honour of the council's former leader and one-time East Belfast MP Peter Robinson.

In January, the former DUP leader said calls to remove his name from the building on Montgomery Road reflected efforts “to eliminate every vestige of unionism in Northern Ireland”.

The council initially said there were no plans to rename the centre after the original building was demolished and replaced by a new facility. However, a petition and pressure from Sinn Féin and SDLP representatives forced a rethink.

At yesterday's meeting Sinn Féin proposed that the public should be consulted on a new name but the committee instead backed an Alliance plan to immediately rename the facility the Lisnasharragh Centre.

Séamas de Faoite, the SDLP representative who campaigned for the name change and initiated the petition which collected more than 500 signatures, said yesterday there was "no room for political ego-trips in 2019".

“Our leisure facilities should be welcoming places for ratepayers of every background – this will be a busy centre at the heart of a rapidly growing and diversifying community in south-east Belfast. The new name will reflect the centre's location, rather than anything else," he said.

“No political party should be allowed to stake a claim on our civic space by naming it after its own members."

Alliance councillor Michael Long said his party had "always opposed the Peter Robinson vanity projects".

"We opposed sending the options for a new name out to public consultation in order to avoid controversy like we have seen from Sinn Féin and the SDLP in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council over the naming of a playpark there," he said.

"The name Lisnasharragh reflects the geographical location, as well as the Belfast City Council District Electoral Area the centre is situated in, so it is perfect."

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds said those who advocated a name-change had been "successful in their desire to see public reference to a prominent unionist removed".

"The speed with which a conclusion was reached stands in obvious contrast to Sinn Féin's open support for a children's playpark named after an IRA sectarian killer and to years of SDLP foot-dragging on attempts to remove that name," he said.

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