Belfast Telegraph

Belfast ratepayers to be consulted on Peter Robinson name row leisure centre

By Lauren Harte

Members of the public are to have their say on the renaming of the new leisure facility at the former Robinson Centre site.

The leisure centre in Castlereagh in east Belfast is undergoing a regeneration that will cost £20m and see a state-of-the-art facility open on the Montgomery Road site.

The centre was named in the 1980s after former DUP leader Peter Robinson, who served on Castlereagh Borough Council.

Belfast City Council bosses had originally said the new building would retain the Robinson name.

However, a motion by Sinn Fein councillor Charlene O'Hara was passed by 11 votes to seven at a meeting of Belfast City Council committee meeting yesterday evening.

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP had argued that the council had gone against its own policy, adopted in 2008, which states leisure centres can only be named after individuals who have been dead for five years, have lived in the area of the facility, and if the family of the person approves of the move.

Nigel Grimshaw, City Hall's director of city and neighbourhood services, had argued that the Robinson name does not represent a breach of policy as the redevelopment is a "replacement of the previous Robinson Centre and not a new facility".

Ms O'Hara said: "I am pleased that my motion on the naming of the leisure facility at the former Robinson Centre site has been passed at the People and Community Committee.

"The Council will now undertake a city wide consultation on the name to allow ratepayers to have their say on the name of the new facility."

Mr Robinson, in a statement to the BBC's Nolan Show last week, accused nationalist parties of double standards when it comes to naming council facilities.

He said: "They believe that it is not suitable to name a public facility after a democratically elected politician while their colleagues, elsewhere in Co Down, defend naming a public facility after an IRA terrorist involved in one of the most heinous massacres in the history of the Troubles."

Mr Robinson was referencing the controversy over the SDLP previously voting against renaming a play park in Newry named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

Reacting to last night's decision on social media, Belfast DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst tweeted: "Sinn Fein, SDLP, & of course Alliance jumping on the band wagon to have the name Robinson dropped from the Robinson Centre.

"Travel 40 miles down the road to Newry and there exists a playground named after an IRA murderer; a terrorist. SF and SDLP didn't have a problem with that."

An online petition has been set up by SDLP activist Seamas de Faoite, calling for a new name for Belfast's new aquatics centre. The petition attracted almost 500 signatures. Mr de Faoite said last night: "This is not a victory or a defeat for any one political view, as some have suggested. We need to have these difficult conversations about our public spaces - we can't let them become ego trips for politicians/political figures, of any shade."

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