Tom Duffy's Circus.
Bosses at Tom Duffy’s Circus have welcomed a decision by Newtownabbey council that will allow them to bring their show to the borough later this month.
It looked like the circus wouldn’t be permitted to use council land after some members branded its use of animals in its shows “cruel” and “archaic” and called for a permanent ban on such circuses from using council sites.
The issue has divided opinion within the council chamber, and individual parties. Back in April, members voted to turn down the original application by Duffy’s Circus. But at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 28, they voted 13 - 8 to allow it to set up at Sixmilewater Park on June 17 and 18, and Loughshore Park from June 19 - 23.
Mark McFerran, business manager at Tom Duffy’s Circus, said he was “delighted” with the council’s decision.
Owner Tom Duffy added: “It was great that some councillors took the time to come and see our animals when we visited Junction One. This played a big part in having the earlier decision overturned as these councillors had first hand knowledge of our animals. It was disappointing though that of the councillors who voted against us in the last vote, not one of them accepted our invitation to visit our animals. We have had great support from members of the public and are looking forward to returning to Newtownabbey.”
Meanwhile, Mr McFerran has hit back at comments made by Alliance alderman John Blair during last month’s Policy and Governance Committee meeting when, after a vote on the Duffy’s application, he suggested that some members may have been influenced by the offer of free tickets to the circus.
While acknowledging that Duffy’s does offer tickets to good causes such as youth groups and charities, and that tickets are often distributed through the mayor’s office in each council area, he denied that members’ decisions had been swayed by free tickets.
“We did not offer any councillors free tickets for our circus. We invited all councillors along to help them make an informed decision after visiting our animals at the circus. The councillors who did accept our invitation visited during the day to see how our animals live and did not attend a performance, nor received tickets for other performances,” he commented.
Meanwhile, DUP councillor Thomas Hogg has expressed his disappointed at the council’s decision to permit circuses which use animals in their acts to set up in local parks.
The Macedon representative has branded the use of animals in circuses “cruel and barbaric”, and says he remains totally opposed to such forms of entertainment, despite the outcome of last week’s council vote.
“A growing number of local authorities across the United Kingdom and in the Free State have banned such circuses from their property. The decision of the council is unfortunate and I think is a regressive step that goes against the tide of public opinion on the issue,” he commented.
Cllr Hogg stressed that he will oppose any future applications from circuses which use animals in their acts.