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SDLP man's mum selling cigarettes illegally from van

By Staff Reporter

Published 12/09/2016

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker with his mother Anne
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker with his mother Anne

The mother of a Belfast councillor could face a fine of up to £5,000 after she was caught running a cigarette racket from a van shop in her front garden.

Anne McCusker, mum of SDLP man Paul McCusker, has been selling cigarettes and other goods from the back of the vehicle at her Ardoyne home.

Last month councillor McCusker called for a financial hardship package for shopkeepers in the Ardoyne area he represents.

When confronted about her unregistered tobacconist store, Mrs McCusker held her hands up and admitted it could be embarrassing for her politician son.

She faces a £5,000 fine if convicted of not registering as a tobacco retailer with Belfast City Council.

"It could be embarrassing for him," she told the Sunday Life.

"If that's the case I'll just close."

She said she had been running the unregistered store from her garden for years and that her father had run it before her.

And she said her son, who until recently lived with her at Duneden Park, knew about the shop.

Mr McCusker could not be contacted for comment.

Last month he spoke out about the plight of legitimate Ardoyne shopkeepers.

"There's been several local traders who have had to close over the last number of months," he said.

"It has raised concerns over the future of other shops at the front of Ardoyne."

Mr McCusker, a part-time nurse, was co-opted onto Belfast City Council in May this year when his SDLP colleague Nichola Mallon won a seat at Stormont.

An undercover Sunday Life reporter filmed Mrs McCusker selling cigarettes and sweets from her white van in her front garden. She also sells soft drinks and bread.

On the video footage she can be heard saying she's waiting on a delivery of "cheap" cigarettes.

All shop owners who wish to sell tobacco products have to apply to be on the tobacco register, which is regulated by Belfast City Council.

The decaying vehicle is permanently parked in the front garden of Mrs McCusker's small terraced house on Duneden Park.

The councillor has lived in the area for most of his life, having worked as a community activist alongside his nursing job at the nearby Mater Hospital.

He is also on the board of Crumlin Star Social Club.

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