Belfast Telegraph

How protesters give food for thought

By Lindy McDowell

In fairness to the protest group known as Occupy Belfast, they've been living up to their label by attempting to occupy at least a bit of the city.

Having established base camp at Writers' Square in Donegall Street (surely the chilliest billet in town) some have now moved on to set up home in the beautiful, old Bank of Ireland at the lower end of Royal Avenue. I'm not sure who actually owns the building (the bank still?) and whether they are distressed by this development.

But as the protesters point out it's been lying empty for many a year. And as they are also at pains to stress, in a weekend interview, they haven't been doing anything to damage the place.

In fact the utter reverse; they're trying to spruce it up, have appealed for donations of plaster to re-do the walls and are also planning a roof garden.

Ummmm ... .. A roof garden? Who precisely is in there? Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen? Kirstie Allsopp? Next up one of those island thingies in the commune kitchen?

The roof garden will apparently be for the growing of vegetables. An indication surely that the protesters are in it for the long haul.

One of them says they'd like to see the building ultimately used as some sort of community centre for the people of Belfast. Lovely idea.

But where does the money for this come from? From Stormont? The same sensible Stormont where, it's just been revealed, they've spent a shocking £13m on consultant and architect fees for school buildings which haven't actually been built?

Given the practical approach of the protesters and the contrasting extravagance of our leaders you're tempted to wonder if it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the Occupy Belfast lot were to set their sights on another bit of prime local real estate.

And Occupy Stormont.

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