Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Belfast council votes to host reception for Northern Ireland and Republic teams - do you agree with the decision?

Just five loyalist protesters turn up at Belfast City Hall to demonstrate against joint reception for Euro 2016 football teams

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Hall has voted to host joint civic reception for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland football teams after a heated debate.

The council came to agreement following a debate that lasted more than an hour and saw the defeat of two amendments from unionists.

Mr Hutchinson sparked controversy earlier this week when he claimed the presence of one of the Republic of Ireland players, James McClean, could spark protests.

"I was not saying all of the Republic of Ireland's team, I was saying one player. He has republican views, he does not hide them and puts them online," he said. "I did not call for any protest."

Loyalist group the Protestant Coalition yesterday publicised a post claiming a protest had been organised to take place ahead of last night's meeting. However, just five people turned up for this protest.

A spokesman for the group told the Belfast Telegraph that it did not organise the protest.

The row started after SDLP councillor Declan Boyle proposed at last month's full meeting of the council that it invites the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams to Belfast City Hall for a dinner to congratulate them both on qualifying for the European Championships later this year.

It was seconded by Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile.

At a meeting of the strategic policy and resources committee last month, Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister proposed that a reception be held, not a dinner, which was passed.

However, there was an ill-tempered debate between councillors in the chamber on the proposal.

The DUP's Brian Kingston proposed that instead of a reception, Lord Mayor Arder Carson should send letters of congratulations to the Northern Ireland, Republic, England and Wales teams.

He pointed out that the council had already hosted a reception to congratulate the Northern Ireland team.

Mr Kingston expressed disappointment that Mr Boyle did not share his proposal with the other parties, accusing him of instead giving it to the media first.

"We as a council have already held a very successful civic reception for the Northern Ireland team in November, marking their tremendous achievement in winning our group and qualifying for the European Championship for the first time ever," he said.

"This reception was very well attended by the full squad, coaches and IFA management.

"It was entirely appropriate as Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland.

"To invite them back for another civic reception a few months later only detracts from that successful event and makes us look disorganised."

The DUP amendment was voted down by 34 votes to 22.

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Jim Rodgers then proposed that the Northern Ireland, Republic, Wales and England teams all be invited to Belfast City Hall for a joint reception to celebrate qualifying for the Euros.

"Why should England and Wales be left out?" he queried.

Accusing some of using the issue as a political football, he added: "In this council we have 60 members, not a dozen of them are really interested in football."

The UUP amendment was also voted down by 33 votes to 22, with the three PUP members abstaining from the recorded vote.

The rejection of both these amendments left the original proposal which had been agreed at the strategic policy and resources committee, that both teams be invited to a joint reception at Belfast City Hall.

Mr Boyle described the debate as "absolutely bizarre" and urged councillors to show that the city has moved on.

He addressed accusations of the issue being used a political football by pointing out he was not running for any election this year.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph