Councillor attacked after asking youths to stop defacing memorial
A councillor who was attacked when he tried to reason with a group of youths as they defaced a memorial to the late PUP leader David Ervine says he was "deeply saddened" that the incident occurred on Remembrance Sunday.
Dr John Kyle, a local GP who is in his sixties, was also swift to call for no retaliation following the incident, which occurred on the Albertbridge Road at around 8.20am.
It is understood four young people were involved in defacing the memorial, with one of the perpetrators reportedly defecating on the structure.
When Dr Kyle, who was on his bike at the time, intervened and asked the group of youths to stop what they were doing, he was kicked but did not sustain any injuries.
The PUP councillor for the area said he had spoken to Mr Ervine's widow, Jeanette, and revealed she echoed Dr Kyle's appeal that the attack would not cause trouble among the east Belfast community.
Stressing that he was "absolutely fine", Dr Kyle last night said the incident had been condemned by all sides of the community.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "For this to have happened on Remembrance Sunday, of all days, and particularly given David's role in trying to bring about a political process which resulted in Stormont running again, and as a man who was held in such high esteem in east Belfast, it is just very regrettable that this has happened.
"What we as a party have made clear is that the last thing David would have wanted is for this to cause any angry backlash. David would not have wanted retaliation or anything like that, his reaction would have been one of sadness and that is my own reaction on this occasion.
"I just think it is very regrettable that something so shameful should take place on Remembrance Sunday. People have been working hard to continue David's work to bring peace and prosperity to an area of east Belfast which has suffered from deprivation and it would be awful if something like this would spoil all that effort.
"I have spoken to David's widow, Jeanette, and explained what happened.
"She was obviously upset but equally firm in saying she wouldn't want this to cause any trouble in east Belfast."
The young people involved in the incident are understood to have been in their late teens or early 20s.
Sophie Long, the PUP's Director of Communications, urged anyone who comes across video footage of the memorial attack to contact police with a view to prosecuting those responsible.
She said everyone connected to the party was "very sad" about what had happened to Dr Kyle and to the memorial itself.
"For anyone to use violence on such a lovely, gentle man as John is just awful," said Ms Long.
A statement on the PUP's Facebook page welcomed the condemnation "from all sections of the community".
A PSNI spokesman said officers are investigating the report of an assault on a man in the Albertbridge Road area of Belfast which occurred at around 8.40am on Sunday morning, as well as a report of attempted criminal damage to a memorial on the Albertbridge Road.
Inspector Murphy would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed either of these incidents to contact police at Strandtown Police station on the non-emergency number 101.