Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson hits back after criticism over Belfast leisure centre name

The Robinson Centre was closed in 2015 amid concerns over asbestos
The Robinson Centre was closed in 2015 amid concerns over asbestos

Former First Minister Peter Robinson has spoken out amid a storm of controversy about a redeveloped leisure centre retaining his name.

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

Representatives from the SDLP and Sinn Fein have criticised the decision by the Council to keep the name for the refurbished centre, saying it contravened Belfast City Council's naming policy.

Last week Belfast City Council bosses said the building would retain the Robinson name, a decision it reached after receiving legal advice.

In a statement to the BBC's Nolan Show, Peter Robinson said: "They believe that it is not suitable to name a public facility after a democratically elected politician while their colleagues, elsewhere in County 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 also said he would not lose any sleep if the name of the centre was changed.

The centre was named after Mr Robinson in the 1980s, while he was aged in his 30s, serving on Castlereagh Borough Council and serving as an MP.

Belfast City Council policy, adopted in 2008, 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.

An online petition has been set up by SDLP activist and former electoral candidate Seamas de Faoite, who says the Council has: "Tied itself in linguistic knots to try to suggest that this is not a new aquatic centre, despite their own website stating it is, at least seven times."

The petition currently has more than 200 signatures.

The issue will be back before Belfast City Council on Monday as a fresh bid is launched to change its name.

Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie has submitted a motion which will be discussed at the first full council meeting of the year.

Mr Beattie says the naming of the centre should go out for consultation, in a similar fashion to the naming process for the road leading up to Windsor Park.

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