Belfast City Hall in bid to show Ulster's Heineken Cup rugby clash on big screen
Belfast City Council is hoping to throw a lifeline to rugby fans unable to get to the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham this month.
A request to show the Ulster versus Leinster clash live on the big screen in the grounds of the City Hall has received cross-party support.
The move comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed how airlines had been hiking up the price of flights between Belfast and London for the May 19 match.
“We need to show our ability to turn on the head of a coin and tackle a problem ahead,” said the DUP’s Gavin Robinson.
“We know that this City Hall has provided a focal point for entertainment. We are missing a huge opportunity if we do not use the screen in our grounds.”
The screen is currently operated by the BBC, however Sky holds the broadcasting rights to the rugby final.
Elected members have now instructed the council’s chief executive Peter McNaney to liaise with the BBC on the issue.
Mr Robinson added: “Surely it should not be insurmountable, so that the residents of Belfast and beyond can support their team and get behind the boys.”
Sinn Fein group party leader at City Hall Jim McVeigh also backed the request.
“We are very happy to support the proposal,” he told the chamber.
“I would even be down with my Ulster flag — the historic Ulster flag, of course.
“It would be much easier to get down to the City Hall than trying to get flights to Twickenham.”
SDLP representative Nicola Mallon said it was important the council “ensure that the citizens of this city can view the final”.
She said showing the match on the big screen would not only encourage people into the city centre, but would increase spend and boost morale.
“Other cities around the world do this,” councillor Mallon said.
“I think we should follow suit.”
The Ulster Unionist Party was divided on the issue.
Alderman Jim Rodgers was “supportive” and also called for a civic reception for the Ulster squad at City Hall regardless if the team “win, lose or draw”.
“I think the council should give a lead here. That is what the screen is for — particularly when it is something of a special nature.”
However, longstanding UUP man Davy Browne was the only elected member to oppose the proposal. He said: “I would ban it (rugby) if I had anything to do with it. I think it is barbaric.”
Meanwhile, a request to rename a Belfast street in memory of 15 people killed in a UVF bombing has been passed by the council.
Residents of Fishers Court, off North Queen Street in the north of the city, had applied to have the thoroughfare called McGurk’s Way — after the 1971 explosion at McGurk’s Bar in which 15 Catholic civilians died.