Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Belfast councillors set to meet over alleged UVF threat to leisure centre contractors

An SDLP councillor said 'those responsible have to be faced down'.

By Eimear McGovern

An alleged UVF threat has been made against contractors working at a new leisure centre in east Belfast.

It's believed contractors have been forced off the site of what was formerly the Robinson Centre on two occasions by a group believed to be the east Belfast UVF.

Belfast City councillors are expected to meet in the next week to discuss the threats, which relate to a section of the site at Clonduff Drive previously used for 11th night bonfires.

However, the PSNI says they have not received reports of threats made against contractors working at Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre.

It was due to be turned into a football pitch as part of a £105 million leisure centre overhaul by the council.

£20 million is being invested in the centre in a project due to be completed in autumn 2019.

"My understanding is that contractors working on two new 3G pitches and a children’s playground on the £20m state of the art aquatic centre have been forced off site twice following threats alleged to have come from the East Belfast UVF," said the SDLP councillor for Lisnasharragh Seamas de Faoite.

"They're trying to drive a wedge in our society and they're not wanted," he said, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that people working hard to develop a cross community, state of the art leisure and health facility for people in this community have been subjected to vile intimidation. There’s no place for it and those responsible have to be faced down," he said.

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said the issue will be discussed on August 23.

"Council officers are due to report to politicians on the work remaining to be carried out at the rear of the Lisnasharragh site at a meeting of Strategic Policy & Resources committee later this month.  We would not comment further prior to that meeting," a council spokesperson said.

The spokesperson for the East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) Jamie Bryson said it's been made clear that there is no threat, nor has any threat been made against contractors after speaking to mediators.

"As a matter of fact EBCI has been working for some time with the local community who have engaged with the council and the contractors positively to try and find positive solutions to this particular issue.

"It is an easy allegation to make but those making it would need to put their money where their mouth is and provide some supporting evidence for this wild allegation," he said.

"I would be keen on hearing a PSNI assessment in relation to this allegation because the information that the EBCI has clearly indicates that there is absolutely no basis to this allegation whatsoever.

"The EBCI are entirely committed to positive transition and the rule of law and we are concerned at efforts to perpetuate a ‘good loyalists- bad loyalists’ narrative which forever seems to seek to single out loyalists in east Belfast with wild allegations of criminal actions. This is unacceptable and for the most part is not based in reality.

"Some of the most positive transition work in terms of loyalism is being undertaken by those formerly of a UVF linked background in east Belfast and this is lost and overlooked due to constant smears and malicious rumours such as that being perpetuated in relation to this site."

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