Belfast Telegraph

Man held after councillor assaulted at David Ervine memorial in Belfast

By Joanne Fleming

A man has been arrested in connection with an attack on a PUP councillor on Remembrance Sunday at a memorial to the party's former leader, David Ervine.

PUP councillor Dr John Kyle was assaulted in east Belfast while confronting a group of youths, one of whom was said to be defecating at a memorial dedicated to Mr Ervine.

The incident occurred on the Albertbridge Road at around 8.40am on November 13.

Dr Kyle, a local GP who is in his 60s, reported that as one of the group desecrated the memorial, others filmed the vile act on mobile phones.

He said that he shouted at them, and that one of them kicked him off his bike and fled towards the Short Strand.

The councillor was reported to have followed the youths into the mainly nationalist area and alerted police.

David Ervine, a former UVF member, led the PUP for five years from 2002 until his death in January 2007 and was a key figure in brokering the loyalist paramilitary ceasefire of 1994.

The attack on his memorial received widespread condemnation, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness voicing his disgust and Sinn Fein's Niall Ó Donnghaile condemning the alleged attack as "disgraceful".

A mural of Mr Ervine at the memorial depicts the loyalist leader against the backdrop of a Harland & Wolff crane which frames the message: "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

Dr Kyle said he wanted to extend his gratitude to the PSNI following news of progress in the case last night.

"I commend the police for their prompt action in this case and would also express my warm thanks to the wider community who supported me following the attack," he said.

"I take heart that both communities stood together in the face of this heinous and unacceptable behaviour. East Belfast is a proud area and David Ervine's memory is respected and cherished by those across the political spectrum. Thanks again to all who sent messages of support and reflected the community I am proud to serve."

At the time of the incident, the PUP councillor spoke to Mr Ervine's widow, Jeanette, who had echoed an appeal by Dr Kyle that the attack would not cause trouble in east Belfast.

Yesterday a police spokeswoman said: "Police investigating the report of an assault on a man and criminal damage to a memorial in the Albertbridge Road area of Belfast which occurred at approximately 8.40am on Sunday, November 13 have arrested a 25-year-old man."

The suspect was yesterday in police custody.

Superintendent Jonathan Roberts added: "I 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 quoting reference 470 of 13/11/16."

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