The DUP and Sinn Fein have clashed over Wolfe Tones Féile concerts in Falls Park, after Belfast City Council agreed to give events in public parks an annual review.
At the recent monthly full council meeting (March 1), elected members agreed that events in city parks that seek multi-year approval will be subject to review after each program ends.
The agreement of the elected members is a pre-political position, before the council agrees to a more structured framework and policy for the events, which is currently being prepared by the officers of the council.
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In a restricted discussion away from the public and press at the council’s People and Communities Committee last month, elected members walked away from a proposal for equality impact assessments to be undertaken with regard to individual events on council lands, particularly with regard to the Féile a Phobail Festival. Later, at a meeting of party group leaders, it was decided to move to an annual review for all recurring events.
DUP councilor Brian Kingston told the town hall meeting this week: ‘We are pleased to have these recommendations passed as approved by the committee. But we will say again regarding Féile An Phobail and the use of Falls Park, that for a number of events, although the vast majority are positive, there continues to be a problem.
He specifically referred to “the use of a municipal park where there is a concert, and from the stage, there are songs, and the leadership of young people, and the song of support for paramilitary organizations”.
He said: “I am referring to the Wolfe Tones concert in Falls Park, in our park. There is nothing else on the same scale as this. There remains a stain on the Féile, and a stain on this council. And we will retain all these reservations from the obligations of good relations incumbent on them. We ask that they be explicitly reminded of this.
“We will continually ask what steps are being taken to change the nature of this event. People can look at the nature of the images and judge for themselves, and decide if it is acceptable in a municipal park.
Sinn Fein councilor Matt Garrett told the chamber: “Each time we left the committee, we moved from an equality impact assessment carried out on particular events, and in particular Féile, to a reminder of all organizations holding events on their good relations policy.”
He replied to Councilor Kingston: “You constantly refer to Féile, and although you say every time you stand up and make this point, we will also remind you, as a party, that all events across the city must enter. contract. All good relationships and impacts are discussed in there.
He said: “If we’re going to go so far as to have equality impacts on every individual, we can’t support that, and we’d call them for all.”
Councilor Kingston asked Councilor Garrett, “Don’t you accept that there is a problem? This event is on a scale like no other, where we sing for the paramilitaries, the young people being led from the stage. Singing for the organization that brought about Bloody Friday, which we agreed to commemorate this year.
Councilor Garrett replied, “Would you also agree that there are events happening in parks and spaces in this council-owned city that are just as annoying to other members of the community .”
Councilor Kingston said: ‘If it didn’t happen in a city park, it wouldn’t be our business. You can’t please everyone. If we are to challenge people’s behavior, so be it. But there is nothing parallel with this event. I repeat, we want progress to be made, for this to be accepted by the organizers, and the parties of this council, that it is a stain on the council and the Féile.
Until the finalized policy is agreed, after the annual review of each event, the Council’s Neighborhood Services Manager will decide on appropriate changes to event management if necessary, including removal of permission if necessary .
The council agreed to the AVA Festival Bespoke camping site on June 3 and 4 at Victoria Park, the Féile an Phobail annual event program at Falls Park and Dunville Park, the Circus Extreme from October 21 to November 6 at the playground Boucher Road and the Belfast Beer and Cider Festival May 18-21 at the Botanic Gardens.
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