Protest staged to 'save Belfast's Boyne Bridge'

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Campaigner Billy Dixon (centre) addressed protestors near the bridge on Tuesday evening

A protest against plans to replace Belfast's Boyne Bridge, to accommodate Translink's new transport hub, has been staged near the site.

The current bridge near Sandy Row was reconstructed in 1936, but its origins date back nearly 400 years.

William III, or King Billy, is believed to have crossed the site on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Translink has said the Boyne Bridge "is to be replaced with a new streetscape" within its multi-million pound hub.

Image source, © Kenneth Allen/CC Geograph
Image caption,
Looking towards the Boyne Bridge from Sandy Row

However, local residents opposed to the plan have called for the bridge to be retained, refurbished and incorporated into the plans.

'History and heritage'

About 50 people gathered near the bridge on Tuesday night, where they were addressed by campaigner Billy Dixon.

"There's been a bridge here for 400 years," Mr Dixon said.

"And it's not just because King William crossed this bridge with his army... but a lot more history besides.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Mr Dixon complained that his neighbours in Sandy Row had not been consulted

"In fact Belfast's origins started from this very place. It was here that the first bricks were produced to build the castle in the centre of Belfast", he claimed.

William III, a Dutch-born Protestant, is said to have passed through Belfast on his way to defeat the Catholic forces of James II in 1690.

The Battle of the Boyne, which took place in County Meath, retains huge symbolic significance in Northern Ireland.

It was the last time two crowned kings of England, Scotland and Ireland faced each other on the battlefield.

Mr Dixon, who chairs the Blackstaff Residents' Association, said part of the original bridge King Billy used as he travelled south from Belfast was still encased in the current structure.

He complained that his neighbours in Sandy Row had not been consulted about Translink's plans.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
An effigy - representing Translink's plan to replace the bridge - was burned during the protest

However, in a statement, a Translink spokesperson said: "We have worked closely with the local community in Sandy Row during the consultation phase for 'The Belfast Hub' and we will continue to do so, to celebrate the history and heritage of one of the oldest areas in Belfast."

The company said plans for its proposed hub had been "subject to a thorough and rigorous design process" and a public consultation which attracted almost 2,000 responses.

"While being cognisant and respectful of the bridge's historical past and that of the area as a whole, the Boyne Bridge is to be replaced with a new streetscape within the new hub.

"This will improve transport and pedestrian connections from the hub to the city and the surrounding communities," it added.

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