New row over the name of a £20m leisure complex to replace ‘Robinson Centre’ in east Belfast

An artist's impression of the new �20m lesiure facility in east Belfast being built on the site of the previous 'Robinson Centre'
An artist's impression of the new �20m lesiure facility in east Belfast being built on the site of the previous 'Robinson Centre'

Sinn Fein and SDLP efforts to strip Peter Robinson’s name from a Belfast leisure centre have been slammed by Alliance due to their role in naming a Newry playground after an IRA gunman.

Belfast City Council is building a new £20m leisure centre in east Belfast on the site of the previous ‘Robinson Centre’, named after the ex-DUP leader under Castlereagh Borough Council in the 1980s.

Sinn Fein councillor Charlene O’Hara said: “This is a new facility and as such must come under existing council policy which states that person must be deceased for at least five years before any park or leisure facility can be named after them.” A motion from her to change the name comes before the council on Monday.

Alliance Councillor Michael Long welcomed moves by her and the SDLP to rename the centre, but suggested it was “a pre-election stunt”.

He added: “I am puzzled by the timing of this motion from Sinn Féin, given that the centre has been in the ownership of Belfast City Council for over four years.”

He further said that the track record of both parties on naming public spaces “is hardly one to follow given the ongoing debacle over Raymond McCreesh park in Newry”.

Both parties helped name a Newry council play park after convicted IRA gunman Raymond McCreesh, who was arrested with a weapon used in the 1976 Kingsmills Massacre.

SDLP activist Séamas de Faoite has also started a petition to change the name of the Robinson Centre.

“Belfast City Council rules say facilities’ names should not be party political,” he said.

He defended his motives on the basis that he originated the SDLP policy, adopted last year in light of the McCreesh Park row, which forbids his party naming facilities after anyone involved in violence.

Mr Robinson said changing the name “will not disturb my sleep” but said it will demonstrate double standards.

“They believe it is not suitable to name a public facility after an elected politician while their colleagues, elsewhere in County Down, defend naming a public facility after an IRA terrorist involved in one of the most heinous massacres in the history of the Troubles,” he said.