Tom Duffy's Circus.
By Duncan Elder
Duffy’s Circus could be granted permission to set up its big top at Loughshore Park next month, just weeks after the council voted not to allow circuses which use animals on its land.
On Monday evening the council’s Policy and Governance Committee voted in favour of a renewed application by Duffy’s - just three weeks after the original request to use council land in Jordanstown and Ballyclare was turned down.
The vote was taken in controversial circumstances after the DUP’s Thomas Hogg, an outspoken opponent of circuses which use animals, took ill during the debate, collapsed and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance.
Proceedings had to be suspended for a time, and when chairman Billy Ball reconvened the meeting some members suggested that the issue be deferred given councillor Hogg’s enforced absence, and the fact that he had been accompanied to the hospital by councillors Lynn Frazer and Pamela Barr.
However, Mayor Victor Robinson proposed that a decision be taken on the Duffy’s application and the debate continued.
A number of councillors, some of whom had taken up Duffy’s invite to visit the circus and see for themselves the way its animals are kept and treated, had changed their mind since last month’s meeting.
Among those who said they were impressed by the condition of the animals at Duffy’s were alderman Robinson and Alliance councillor Pat McCudden. They also pointed to the thousands of people who went to see the circus the last time it was in the borough.
Mr McCudden said that since last month’s council meeting he had been “inundated with calls from people wishing to retain the circus.”
Councillor John Scott said it was preferable that the circus should set up on council land, rather than on private property.
“It could go to a farmer’s field somewhere and then whatever happens happens,” he said. “But at least if it’s on council land we can keep an eye on it.” The UUP man added that the USPCA could be invited to inspect the animals if necessary.
Councillor Billy Webb hit back, branding circuses which use animals “cruel”, regardless of whether or not the animals have been born into captivity, while his party colleague, John Blair again called for a permanent ban on circuses which exploit animals from using council land.
Sinn Fein representative Gerry O’Reilly added that the council shouldn’t be seen to be endorsing the actions of those who “exploit animals for profit”.
Following the break in proceedings after councillor Hogg’s collapse, members voted 11 - 7 against deferring the issue until next week’s full council meeting - a move which sparked alderman Blair to point the finger at the young DUP man’s colleagues, and claim: “Some animals I have met over the years have shown more commitment, decency and loyalty than some humans have shown here tonight.”
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