22 January 2006

Pigeon feeder's fine paid by mystery donor

Sunday Life

Stephen Breen
22 January 2006

A mystery bird lover has paid the controversial fine imposed on a 'have-a-go-hero' for feeding pigeons in Belfast city centre.

Outraged Gerard Braiden had been refusing to pay the £50 litter penalty imposed by the city council last December - and had vowed to go to jail instead.

Defiant Mr Braiden said he was amazed and delighted when the council informed him someone had paid the fine - but he will go on feeding the birds.

Mr Braiden's best pal, Norman Lowry, suffered serious head injuries after the pair had bravely tried to stop a notorious joyrider hi-jacking a vehicle in a city centre car park back in March 2004.

Fifty-one-year-old Mr Braiden was in the news again last month, hitting out angrily after he was fined for feeding pigeons.

Other bird lovers rallied to his cause, and Mr Braiden told last week how he had received over 100 letters of support.

"I was determined to take a stand against the council on this matter and I was prepared to go to prison," he said.

" I love all kinds of animals - including pigeons.

"I received my fine in December and I couldn't believe it when the council informed me the matter had been resolved and the fine paid just a few weeks later.

"The support I received was fantastic and I can't thank the person who paid the fine enough, although I was looking forward to having my day in court.

"This is now the end of the matter regarding the fine but it won't stop me and other people feeding pigeons.

"I've no doubt the council have come out of this in a bad light because of their strong stance on the issue."

Jim Ferguson, operations manager for the council's street cleansing department, defended the action.

He said: "The litter warden observed Mr Braiden on numerous occasions feeding pigeons with corn seed.

"He was warned, but continued to feed the pigeons - even though we told him it was an offence under the 1994 Litter Act.

"We stand by our original decision but the matter has now been resolved."

Mr Braiden's feud with the council started when he was involved in a heated row with a litter warden after he fed pigeons with seed at Hector Street.

The warden, who was accompanied by two police officers, told Mr Braiden that he was committing an offence by feeding the birds.

The bird-lover was feeding the pigeons just a few yards from where his pal was mown down and seriously injured by car thief Stephen O'Hagan.

sbreen@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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