Funding bid for Belfast fanzone withdrawn after outcry
West Belfast festival organisation Feile an Phobail withdrew its application for council funding for last night's Linfield-Celtic fanzone at the Devenish pub at the city's Finaghy Road North.
The proposal for a fanzone to accommodate Celtic fans wishing to watch last night's match had been approved to receive funding of up to £15,000.
The application for the Belfast City Council-funded fanzone at the Devenish Complex was put forward after Celtic's ticket allocation at Windsor Park was not made available to fans.
It was voted through unanimously at a City Hall meeting.
Last night, a spokesperson for Feile an Phobail confirmed that the group's application to the West Belfast Police and Community Safety Partnership for funding support had been withdrawn.
Feile an Phobail said its main aims were to "provide a controlled, safe and secure environment for those fans wanting to watch the game thus reducing local community tension and supporting the security plan around this fixture; reduce tension and build-up of crowds at key interfaces and; [to] encourage people without tickets to stay away from Windsor Park".
Prior to making the application for council funding, the group said it managed to secure support from "local businesses, elected representatives, statutory bodies and critically, those organisations who work tirelessly to reduce tensions at interfaces".
The group added that after consultation with other stakeholders, it was decided that they did not require additional funding to support the fanzone.
The change of heart came after the fanzone funding plan attracted criticism from unionist political representatives on Belfast City Council.
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said: "People are angry and have expressed amazement over the possibility of Belfast City Council providing financial assistance for this fanzone when applications for similar facilities have been denied in the past."
However last night Sinn Fein councillor Matt Garret said he was disappointed that the fanzone had been turned into what he termed a "political football".
"Unionist councillors are falling over themselves to criticise and close down a positive initiative aimed at diffusing tensions and ensuring that this football match passes off peacefully," he said.