Boyne Bridge protest turns up the heat on Translink plan
A makeshift effigy representing Translink was burnt by protesters last night in Belfast over fears that a new £175m travel hub will lead to the destruction of the Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row.
The bridge is behind the Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street train station, and is believed to have been built on the route travelled by William of Orange on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The original arches of the bridge first built by Lord Edward Chichester in 1642 - known at various stages as the Great Bridge, the Saltwater Bridge and the Brickill Bridge - are incorporated into the current structure.
Plans by Translink to create a huge new Belfast Travel Hub could see the bridge rebuilt, prompting fierce resistance by some residents in Sandy Row.
Around 40 people gathered at the protest last night while police officers with two Land Rovers kept watch.
Minutes before starting, the protesters were ordered not to take their demonstration on to the bridge, staying instead in front of Sandy Row's gable-end mural of King Billy.
Organiser Billy Dickson told the crowd: "There shouldn't be any compromise like 'take the bridge away and we'll give you this'," he said.
"You Sandy Row people know what I'm talking about.
"Well, I can tell you this, if you listen to those people you can say goodbye to Sandy Row."
An effigy was tied to a lamppost bearing a sign reading "Boyne Bridge Destroyer" and was quickly set alight.
At one point, a resident walked into traffic on the main road attempting to get the protesters to follow him on to the Boyne Bridge in defiance of police orders. Speaking afterwards, Mr Dickson said he was pleased with the support but disappointed the PSNI kept protesters off the bridge.
Earlier this week a spokeswoman for Translink said they will "continue to work closely" with the community to address any potential impact on the area.
"We have also worked closely with the local community in Sandy Row during the consultation phase for 'The Belfast Hub' and we will continue to do so, to celebrate the history and heritage of one of the oldest areas in Belfast," she said.
On project funding, Translink declined to say if private investors have made offers, but said it was "prioritised in the Programme For Government for funding".