DUP's Ruth Patterson wears Linfield scarf in Belfast City Council sparking furore
A meeting of Belfast City Council descended into farce last night after a DUP councillor put on a Linfield football club scarf.
Ruth Patterson donned her supporter's scarf as she proposed an event at City Hall to recognise the achievements of Linfield manager David Jeffrey as he prepared to step down.
That antagonised the Sinn Fein group leader on the council, Jim McVeigh – and the level of debate swiftly deteriorated into scenes reminiscent of the bad old days in the chamber.
Bad-tempered accusations, sarcasm and aggression filled the Dome of Delight as unionists and republicans squared up to each other across the floor.
The entire confrontation lasted around 10 minutes when Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir – who had been chairing the meeting – stepped out for 15 minutes to meet Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year and ovarian cancer campaigner Una Crudden.
As the volume and tensions increased, Mr McVeigh queried if it was appropriate for Ms Patterson to wear a football scarf in the workplace.
The controversial DUP figure has previously worn a Union flag as a scarf in the council chamber in the midst of the bitter row over the display of the flag.
Siding with Ms Patterson, Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford told Mr McVeigh that his behaviour was outrageous and told him to sit down.
"You are a group leader, man. For goodness sake, behave like a respectable man of the council, you look like a petulant child," Mr Stalford told the Sinn Fein man.
Order only resumed when Mr O Muilleoir re-entered the chamber and Mr Stalford re-took his seat at the Lord Mayor's side, visibly angry.
The Sinn Fein mayor allowed Ms Patterson to continue with her speech and wear her scarf.
Speaking after the meeting Mr McVeigh said he intended to write to the chief executive of the council to complain about Mr Stalford.
"This was not the place to be wearing football tops or scarves," he said.
However Mr McVeigh's behaviour was condemned across the political divide.
SDLP group leader Tim Attwood said Mr McVeigh's behaviour had been "inappropriate".
DUP group leader Lee Reynolds slammed Mr McVeigh as a bully.
"He can bully all he likes, it's not going to work. He's not in the Maze any more," he said.
Ms Patterson said she felt Ms McVeigh had behaved in a "childish way. Councillor McVeigh was absolutely childish and immature but what do you expect from Sinn Fein because they simply do not want anything in the chamber they see as Protestant"
"Even though both sides of the community support Linfield, Sinn Fein cannot accept that," she added.
Lord Mayor O Muilleoir declined to comment on the stand-off and said he wished to review the video footage.
Ms Patterson's proposal was referred to the Strategic Policy and Resources committee for consideration.