A Belfast councillor has defended a decision to give the city’s elected representatives free tickets to the launch of the Giro d’Italia.
Each of the 51 councillors has been able to avail of two tickets for the Grand Partenza (Big Start) on May 8.
Hundreds of people queued in the city centre on Thursday in the hope of getting free tickets but many cycling fans missed out – some reacting angrily on social media websites to the councillors’ allocation.
All of the 5,500 tickets available to the public were snapped up by lunchtime. It was reported that demand for the online allocation was so great the computer system crashed.
A similar row erupted last November when each councillor was allocated four tickets for the Freedom of the City concert given by Van Morrison at the Waterfront.
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said that, on reflection, four tickets had been “too many” for the November gig, but felt the latest allocation was appropriate.
“Belfast City Council are putting in over £400,000 into this cycle race, and rightly so,” he said.
“We got an email as city councillors from the chief executive’s office informing us that there were two tickets for each member, and if you wanted them you were to respond either by email or by phone, and as I understand it the vast majority have agreed to accept,” Cllr Rodgers added.
A very limited number of unclaimed tickets for the City Hall event will be available from the Belfast Welcome Centre on Donegall Square North from 9am on Friday, May 2.
The Giro d’Italia takes place from May 9 to 11.
• SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan yesterday commended political parties for working together to ensure an election poster free Giro d’Italia route.
Legislation came into operation earlier this week which means restrictions on posters will be in place from May 8 to 11 on the race route. Failure to comply could result in legal action and a fine of up to £2,500 – but Mr Durkan said it was “not anticipated that this will be necessary”.