By Gemma Burns

T he chairman of the Ardoyne fleadh committee has said loyalists ‘deliberate attempts’ to disrupt the fleadh only surfaced after the event hosted an Irish music  night on Sunday.

Eddie Copeland was speaking after 6,000 homes were left without power when vandals broke into the electricity substation on Sunday night and destroyed equipment.

Fleadh organisers said no complaints about noise were made during a Ska night on Saturday but after Sunday’s Irish music night vandals were deliberately trying to block off the power to the fleadh.

Belfast City Council confirmed this week that they received just three complaints about the noise on Saturday night during the fleadh’s Ska night. This number rose to 110 complaints on Sunday night during the traditional Irish music event.

The incident is the third time over the past number of years that the power station has been tampered with during the annual fleadh celebrations.

Mr Copeland said their committee is in no doubt the vandalism was a deliberate attempt to target the fleadh.

“There’s no doubt about it (that it was deliberate),” he said. “This isn’t the first time it has happened during the fleadh and we know why. I ask them would they rather be listening to the sound of sirens and police and rioting? This is what happened every year after they march.

“Nobody had a complaint about the noise on the Saturday night when it was a Ska night, it was only on Sunday during the Irish night.”

The power cut on Sunday night did not affect the fleadh celebrations because organisers had a back up system in place. However thousands of home and businesses in the area were left without power. NIE staff who arrived in the area to repair the damage were attacked and their vehicle was damaged.

After the site was secured on Monday the vandals returned again on Monday night and damaged the system leaving thousands of local people once again without power.

The committee chairman said the people of Ardoyne had the right to enjoy the annual fleadh celebrations.

“There were up to 6,000 people here in Sunday night enjoying themselves,” he said. “There was no bother or trouble, yet they didn’t like it. “This was a great night for the Ardoyne community and for local business who depend on this night every year to bring in business.”

Sinn Féin councillor for the area Gerard McCabe met with the PSNI and the electricity board this week to talk about the issue.

The councillor told the two bodies that if the power station cannot be secured and power guaranteed to local people then it should be moved elsewhere.

“This is not something that should be allowed to happen again,” he said.

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