NORTH Belfast MP John Finucane has called for action after the Waterworks Park in North Belfast finally re-opened to the public after a month-long closure.

The hugely popular local beauty spot has been closed since December 8 after an outbreak of avian influenza. A number of dead birds were removed from the site.

Distressed park users looked on as swans died slow and agonising deaths in the water and on the banks and there was anger at the failure of the Department of Agriculture and City Hall staff to respond.

Numerous cases of the disease were detected across Ireland last month.

The gates to the Waterworks were re-opened on Friday morning, with a sign outlining the new temporary opening hours of 9am to 4pm.

It is understood 52 birds – primarily swans and greylag geese – were taken dead from the Waterworks during the outbreak.

Speaking in advance of a meeting the the Chief Executive of Belfast City Council – which is responsible for the site – Mr Finucane said: “There’s a real sense of relief that the Waterworks Park has now reopened after a bird flu outbreak that has had a significant impact upon our iconic North Belfast swan population.


“I’ve written to the Belfast City Council Chief Executive to request a meeting to raise concerns about how this situation was dealt with and to call for action on the campaigns to improve this very popular park.

“The Waterworks, sometimes known as the garden of North Belfast, was sorely missed by the many daily park users and by the multiple groups including runners. anglers, footballers and also by the many people that frequented this facility during the pandemic as a safe, accessible outdoor space."

Mr Finucane also voiced concerns about the management of the park closure.

“Sinn Fein along with park users had raised the distressing scenes of ill and dying birds at the initial stages of the bird flu outbreak with the Department For Agriculture and Belfast City Council, however they were slow to act," he added.

“In fact while it took Council some time to respond, the Department’s response was frankly abysmal and dead swans were left floating in the water for some time.

“As the distressing scenes continued, and the public concern grew, it was to their credit that Council finally intervened.

“However, the park closure did displace everyone that depends on the park and communication by Council with the public was sadly lacking, even to the point of the reopening.

“It is now time for action on the future of the Waterworks, including investment and addressing the need for toilet facilities, lighting and cleansing.


“The bird flu closure has only helped to highlight the popularity of this park and raise the limited outdoor green space in North Belfast which is accessible to families, older people and people with disabilities who can’t safely go to the likes of the Cavehill Country Park.

“Lessons must be learnt after this episode by statutory agencies if we are to address the concerns of the residents of North Belfast, some of whom are I think are fairly articulating the view that this same situation wouldn’t have been allowed to develop in other facilities in the city.

“Council officials now need to regain the confidence of the public with decisive action and I shall be putting these points to the Chief Executive in the days ahead.

“Finally, I would urge the public to abide by the directions not to feed the birds in the park and to follow the health advice during this current period.”