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'Love' artist celebrates after city council waives graffiti fine

By Maria McCann

Published 25/04/2015

Delighted: Christoff Gillen
Delighted: Christoff Gillen

An artist fined for writing the word 'love' hundreds of times in chalk outside Belfast City Hall has spoken of his delight that he no longer has to pay.

Christoff Gillen was issued with a £60 penalty after covering the pavements at Donegall Place with the rainbow of words last month.

Wardens accused him of defacing the area down to the Art College on York Street under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2011.

But the defiant Co Armagh man decided to take legal action against the "ridiculous" decision and claimed he was the only person to be fined for the offence in the last year.

He also turned up outside the council building earlier this month with thousands of pennies to carry out another artistic protest in response to the fine.

Belfast City Council has since decided to waive the penalty, in response to a letter sent by Mr Gillen's solicitors.

The 45-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph it was never about paying or not paying.

"It was a matter of principle, because I think it was the issues I was highlighting - not the actual graffiti - that were the reason why I was fined."

Mr Gillen's artwork was part of a project to raise awareness of issues facing the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland.

"People are being treated unfairly and there's an inequality with the ban on gay blood donations and gay marriage," he said.

It comes just a day after the Health Minister came under fire for saying children brought up in a household with gay parents were more likely to be abused or neglected.

Gillen said: "Again, this all shows Northern Ireland in a bad light. These are issues that face people across the world and everyone's watching how it's dealt with here."

Belfast City Council has told Mr Gillen he must tell it next time he takes part in a similar art project in the city centre.

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