Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Two years on and still no Alex Higgins memorial

Alex Higgins

Two years ago they promised to lobby for a lasting tribute to snooker legend Alex Higgins.

But it seems Belfast City councillors have not yet lived up to those words.

The family of the man known fondly as The People’s Champion recently marked the second anniversary of his death.

More than 24 months after he died from cancer, there is still no civic memorial to his legacy in his home city.

Indeed, a spokeswoman for Belfast City Council has confirmed that the issue has never even been discussed at City Hall.

“No formal request has been made at committee/council by members for a tribute/memorial to Alex Higgins,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

With two world titles to his name and many of today’s greatest players crediting him for transforming snooker, few would argue that Alex ‘The Hurricane’ Higgins is among Northern Ireland’s historical sporting elite.

But to the disappointment of Higgins’s family and fans, there has been no formal recognition of the contribution made by the controversial snooker player who struggled with gambling, drinking and cigarettes.

Ulster Unionists Bob Stoker and Jim Rodgers were among those leading the calls for a permanent memorial, and last year both promised to raise the issue at council.

Mr Stoker, whose constituency includes the working-class Donegall Road area of south Belfast where Higgins spent most of his life, said he was “frustrated” by the slow pace of local government.

“It is not just our (council) responsibility,” the veteran councillor said. “You are dealing with DSD (Department for Social Development), the Arts Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and you have to take everybody into account.

“It is very frustrating for elected members as well. There are processes and appraisals to go through. Unfortunately that’s part of local government now in Northern Ireland.

“To me this is a no-brainer.”

Mr Stoker said Higgins should be given a lasting memorial.

“There are not many cities that can claim to produce world champions but Belfast does it on a regular basis.”

Last year Alex Higgins’s sister, Jean, criticised Belfast City councillors for the lack of action.

“Sure they never did anything in 1972 and 1982,” she said. “He got more recognition in the south when he was playing. The south thought more of him.”

Shortly before his death Alex told his sister he wanted to be remembered by the city and joked: “George (Best) got the wee airport, I’ll take the big one.”

Profile

Born in Belfast in 1949, Alex Higgins quickly became snooker’s first TV superstar. He began playing at the age of 11 in the Jampot club on his native Sandy Row in south Belfast and turned professional at 22. He won the World Championship at his first attempt in 1972 and then scooped his second world title a decade later in 1982. In 1988, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

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