Sinn Fein will foot £650 bill for Christmas party toilet damage at City Hall bash
SINN Fein has agreed to accept responsibility for damage caused to a urinal at Belfast City Hall during its Christmas party.
Damage was discovered to toilets at the east entrance to the historic building following the republican party's bash on December 20.
There were claims that the damage had been caused after a fight broke out between up to 20 people during the celebrations.
Sinn Fein group leader on the council Jim McVeigh initially distanced himself from the incident and said the party had no idea who caused the damage.
Last night it emerged during a meeting of Belfast City Council that Sinn Fein has agreed to stump up £650 to cover the cost of fixing the toilets.
There has been no indication of who may have caused the damage.
The strategic policy and resources committee of the council heard that there was no evidence over who was responsible.
However, as a consequence the committee has agreed that from now on the organiser of informal events at City Hall must accept responsibility for all guests and any damage that may be caused. Previously this rule had only applied to formal events.
DUP group leader on the council Lee Reynolds criticised Sinn Fein for not identifying those responsible.
"This vandalism was a disgrace and displayed disrespect for City Hall," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "It is of deep regret that the vandals directly responsible have not been identified.
"Sinn Fein's belated offer to accept responsibility and pay for the damages means at least the ratepayer is not footing the bill."
Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker said the person responsible should apologise.
"This was Sinn Fein's event, they had arranged for the use of that room for a celebratory event at which they invited guests, so they are clearly responsible for any damage.
"Although they initially tried to deny it, it became quite clear from security camera footage who had been going out and in to the toilets that evening.
"This is criminal damage that we are talking about, so Sinn Fein should be trying to identify the perpetrators, and I think whoever is responsible should be held accountable and should apologise."
Last night councillor McVeigh conceded to the Belfast Telegraph that the damage had taken place during his party's Christmas gathering, however he insisted that it did not know who was responsible. He also stressed that the damage shown in pictures published when this story emerged previously made it look more serious than it actually was.
"That photograph was taken after the plumber had been called to carry out remedial work so the damage looks worse than it was.
"The urinal was not knocked off the wall. The pipe was pulled out and part of the top of the urinal pulled away. We think it was someone who had maybe had too much to drink and had to steady themselves," he said.
Mr McVeigh also rejected claims that any fights had taken place during the party.
"A report was produced by security and it confirms that there had been no fights," he said.