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Photos raise questions over Sinn Fein zoo animal policy

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Penelope Wilton and Art Parkinson with Deirdre Hargey and zoo manager Alyn Cairns

Penelope Wilton and Art Parkinson with Deirdre Hargey and zoo manager Alyn Cairns

�William Cherry / Presseye

Alyn Cairns with former Lord Mayor John Finucane and a giraffe

Alyn Cairns with former Lord Mayor John Finucane and a giraffe

Penelope Wilton and Art Parkinson with Deirdre Hargey and zoo manager Alyn Cairns

Photos of previous Sinn Fein Lord Mayors happily posing with exotic animals at Belfast Zoo have called into question the party's proposals to send non-native species back to their country of origin.

A motion from Sinn Fein put forward at Belfast City Council said the display of caged animals in enclosures was "wrong and unethical".

The party suggested a five-year transition plan for the safe return of a number of non-indigenous animals to their natural habitats. They rejected claims from other parties this would cause the zoo to close.

One supporter of the zoo, Stephen McKinney, contacted the Belfast Telegraph with several photos of previous Sinn Fein Lord Mayors, including John Finucane, Deirdre Hargey and Niall O Donnghaile, posing with smiles on their faces with non-native animals at Belfast Zoo.

Mr McKinney said they "seemed to have had enjoyable days at the zoo".

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "A number of former mayors Belfast Zoo in their capacity as mayor for all, just as they visited many other council-funded facilities."

SDLP councillor Carl Whyte said: "Any plan that would see the removal of animals back to their natural habitat from Belfast Zoo is complete nonsense. The European Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the British and Irish associations, have supported that position.

"Returning animals to their natural habitats can result in up to 70% mortality of the animals, so there's no way that I or any other member of the SDLP would support this. In fact, every other party is opposed to this plan."

He added: "Obviously Sinn Fein mayors understand the importance of the zoo given that they've been there during their times in office.

"This will be discussed on February 21 at the strategic policy and resources committee.

"I'm hoping that common sense prevails and that a proper plan for investment and enhancement of the zoo is brought forward."

Belfast Telegraph