Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Future of peace walls sparks a war of words

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson

A bitter confrontation between PUP leader Billy Hutchinson and Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh over sectarian attacks marred the Belfast City Council meeting last night.

The row was sparked during a debate about an Alliance motion around working towards the removal of peace walls from Belfast interfaces.

Councillor Tom Ekin proposed a strategy to start moving towards taking down peace walls.

But a number of unionist councillors warned that people who live at interfaces may not be ready for the walls to come down and stressed that it must be their decision when walls are removed.

Mr Hutchinson told the council it was "untenable" for the walls to come down.

Pointing to a recent spate of sectarian attacks on Protestant homes in north Belfast, he said the council should be doing more to protect residents from such attacks.

But Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh launched a verbal attack on Mr Hutchinson and accused him of having "stoked up tensions over the last year" among loyalists.

"If Billy was sincere he would not have been stoking up tensions for the last year," he said. "Don't be lecturing us, Billy."

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