No free tickets for local councillors, says circus boss

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The manager of a circus which is soon to visit Newtownabbey has hit back at suggestions that it gives free tickets to local councillors.

Tom Duffy’s Circus has been permitted to set up on council-owned parkland in Ballyclare and Jordanstown during May and June. But the fact that the circus uses animals in its performances has divided the council chamber.

At April’s Leisure Committee meeting several councillors opposed the circus’s application for use of council land, with some raising objections about the use of animals for human entertainment. Alliance Alderman John Blair also suggested that some members had availed of free tickets for the circus in the past and called for a register to be set up for those who receive complimentary tickets.

Responding to comments made at the meeting, Mark McFerran, business manager at Tom Duffy’s, stressed that councillors do not get free admission to the circus.

“We have a community programme where a number of tickets are donated to local community groups and charities in each venue we visit to give members of the community who may not be able to afford a visit to the circus the opportunity to visit. Generally these tickets are donated though the Mayor’s office. At no point do we offer free tickets to councillors,” he said.

Stressing that the circus takes “great pride” in its animals and their standard of care, he added: “We have previously invited all Newtownabbey councillors to visit our circus to meet our animals and inspect the animals and their conditions. A number of councillors visited us last year, and all were happy with the conditions of our animals.”

It’s understood that more than 6,000 people attended the circus during its visits to Newtownabbey last year.

Tom Duffy commented: “Our audience numbers grow year on year. Last year over 160,000 people came to see our performances and meet our animals, and this year we expect even more. Would all these people come if they thought our animals were mistreated in any way?”

Meanwhile, on Monday night councillors at the monthly Policy and Governance Committee meeting turned down a request from the circus to move the date of its booking for Sixmile Park from May to June.