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Council probes east Belfast 'celebration event' on day of Martin McGuinness funeral

By Brett Campbell

Belfast City Council has launched an investigation into a 'celebration' event that coincided with the funeral of Martin McGuinness last Thursday in the east of the city.

As the former Deputy First Minister's hometown came to a standstill, loyalists in east Belfast were hosting a day of celebration which included face-painting, bouncy castles, burgers and games.

Union flags lined the perimeter of the council-owned Inverary playing fields in Sydenham where the "culture celebration family fun day" kicked off at 4pm.

A post advertising the festivities on social media read: "On the day of Martin McGuinness's funeral we remember our patriots that defended this country from terrorism and those that served in our armed forces."

A council spokesperson has confirmed that no application was made by any group or individual to hold the event.

"This event was organised without permission from the council and our staff were not aware of the event until they carried out a routine site visit at approximately 5pm on Thursday, March 23. At this stage, the event was underway," they said.

"We are currently investigating the circumstances around this event and intend on speaking to our stakeholders about it."

The community event was hosted by the Sydenham Bonfire group who explained that the event was to provide a venue for victims to meet in memory of their loved ones, and to "provide a counter-balance to those lauding Martin McGuinness as a peacemaker".

The group hailed the provision of a "safe space" as the "key to diffusing tensions by providing a release valve" which would prevent young people congregating at nearby interfaces.

Local residents who attended the fun day flocked to social media afterwards to applaud all those who helped make the day a great success.

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