5 March 1998 Edition

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SDLP's Attwood joins battle against Felons

By Mick Naughton.

As the RUC vendetta against the Felons Club continues, their latest ally has turned out to be the SDLP's Alex Attwood. He was first on his feet to oppose the Felons' request to have their club licence transferred to a public house licence at the monthly meeting of Belfast City Council on Tuesday 3 March.

After months of the application being deferred by North Belfast unionist David Brown (DUP), the Council was due to rule on the matter at Tuesday's meeting. At committee stage three SDLP councillors voted with Sinn Fein, nine to five in favour of the licence change, and it was thought that Tuesday's decision would go through without objections.

However RUC chief Parkes, notorious for his harassment of republicans, who is behind the campaign against the Felons, found a surprise ally with the intervention of SDLP councillor Alex Attwood who opposed the recommendation by the Divisional Planning Manager.

Attwood was on his feet before Brown or the DUP's Sammy Wilson could move against the planning committee's approval and proposed the total rejection of the Felons request.

Attwood began by admitting he had done a ``minimum amount of research'' before using in-depth traffic statistics and road traffic arguments to say the Felons was not a suitable location to have a pub licence.

After some debate, during which Sammy Wilson ``complimented'' Attwood, the committee vote was overturned, leaving the planners, who have the power to overrule any council decision, to re-examine the issue once more.

In the past year the RUC has carried out heavy raids on the club and taken away financial records, documents and a considerable amount of personal money. The homes of five club workers and a number of club members were also raided. Last month John Bradley a former secretary of the club was arrested by heavily armed RUC members as he supervised a group of children.

Liam Shannon of the Felons management said he was ``totally disgusted'' at the attitude of the SDLP ``and Alex Attwood in particular''. He accused the SDLP of ``sour grapes''. ``They are using the Felons to get at republicans in West Belfast,'' he said. ``We are now moving from being victimised by the RUC to being victimised by the SDLP.''

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