Bangor Castle was braced for heated exchanges on a number of fronts as North Down’s councillors gathered for their monthly meeting last night.
Loyalists from across the district were descending on the town hall at the time of going to press with councillors facing the burning issues of rebellious bonfire groups — and what to do about foul mouthed rapper Eminem.
Meanwhile, another protest called by the union NIPSA was set to demand an end to the council’s plans to privatise its leisure |services.
The loyalist protesters were accusing the council of differentiating against and failing to respect loyalists and community workers.
They were also hostile to the council’s policies on bonfires — saying it wanted to replace them with beacons — and refused to sign up for the funding available to community groups for 11th night festivities this year.
The parade was set to start from Abbey Street and lead to the town hall, where a number of speakers planned to address the protest gathering and submit letters of complaint to the Town Clerk.
PSNI Bangor said on Monday that they had received notification of the parade, but had no information to suggest that there would be any disruption.
Councillor Austen Lennon said he planned to walk alongside the protesters as he supported their assertion that the council had “made a mess of Peace III funding, of the bonfires and of Queen’s Parade.”
He also agreed with the NIPSA members. “The issue is jobs. There are some council services that can be privatised and others that can’t and I suspect if you hand over leisure centres to a conglomerate it will take it away from the rate payers.”
Speaking before the meeting, deputy mayor Councillor Alan Leslie was expecting a lively evening. “There is probably room for about 30 protesters in the council chamber,” he said.
“Hopefully it will be a peaceful night.
“We certainly don’t want any repeat of what happened in east Belfast,” he added, referring to an alleged threat that Bangor would see a repeat of last week’s riots near the Short Strand.
Mr Leslie added that the NIPSA members’ concerns would be treated as a staffing matter.
The union decided to launch its protest after learning that it would not be granted speaking rights before last night’s meeting at which the full council was expected to adopt the Policy Committee’s recommendation to outsource leisure facilities.
“NIPSA will take all necessary steps to stop the privatisation of a public service which is best delivered by loyal public servants who are not in this to make a profit but to serve the ratepayers of the Borough,” said the union, which has also organised a petition against the move.
Should the meeting get underway, councillors were expected to rubber stamp the entertainments licence for the Tennants Vital festival in August.
Local resident Brian Ashworth tried to persuade a council committee that headline act Eminem’s lyrics were too obscene to be tolerated, however, a spokeswoman for the council said the body would be restricted to looking at issues such as security and noise levels.
Councillor Leslie agreed. “We as a council or the council officers have signed an agreement and then the promoters came in with Eminem and we maybe have egg on our faces,” he said.
“The grounds aren’t there to refuse a licence now but I am totally opposed to him coming.”