Northern Ireland news

Criticism after Antrim athletics venue renamed Centenary Stadium

A WELL-known athletics venue has been re-named by a council to mark the centenary of partition, sparking criticism from coaches and athletes.

Antrim Stadium, which opened in 1979 and sits beside the Antrim Forum leisure centre, has been renamed the Northern Ireland Centenary Stadium.

However some in sporting circles were unimpressed branding the decision 'political' and saying an opportunity was missed to name it after those who contributed greatly to the sport in Ireland.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council unveiled the name at a re-dedication ceremony this month.

In a statement on its website, it said the NI Centenary Stadium would "carry with it all the history, events and achievements accomplished by the clubs and athletes over the years".

Alliance Mayor Billy Webb said he was "delighted that we were able to include this special rededication of our athletic stadium in our programme of centenary events".

But coach and Irish News athletics columnist Malcolm McCausland said the name appeared to be "political".

"Through 30 years of the Troubles, athletics was never a cold house for any religion, religion did not feature," he said.

"So it's sad now 20 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that religion appears to have come into and a political name chosen.

"I think if they're going to change the name, it's incumbent on them to recognise athletes such as Maeve and Sean Kyle who gave so much to athletics over many years.

"I believe the stadium should be called after Maeve, the first Irish woman to compete at an Olympic Games who went onto to achieve major success.

"Coached by her husband Sean, I believe a stand at the stadium should be called after him - this would be a nice tribute to them both and not scoring a political point."

Renowned coach John Glover also questioned the change on Twitter and agreed that the Kyles should be honoured instead.

"Why make the facility politically contentious when you have the opportunity of honouring two of the most respected names in Irish or indeed world athletics who spend so much of their time there working for the community?" he said.

North Belfast Harriers athletics club wrote on Twitter: "Kyle Stadium and the stand named after John McAdorey or someone local who has competed at the highest level (or similar standing) would be most fitting".

Ballymena sprinter McAdorey represented Ireland at the Sydney Olympics, but died in 2019 aged 45.

Many social media were also critical, calling it a "terrible idea", suggesting ratepayers were not consulted about the change, while others said the word 'Antrim' should have been retained.

A council spokeswoman said as part of its "programme to commemorate the centenary of Northern Ireland, the council has renamed several of its facilities, including the Antrim Stadium".

She said "all decisions for the commemorative programme have been agreed by the council’s NI Centenary Working Group, which includes both external and internal representatives".

"The renaming of Antrim Stadium was approved through the usual committee/council process," she said.

"The renaming proposals were part of the council’s NI Centenary Programme, which was Section 75 screened and an Equality Impact Assessment was not deemed necessary, therefore there was not a requirement for a public consultation, this was approved by the Community Planning Committee in March 2021."

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