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Sinn Fein councillor's car attacked by loyalists at Belfast City Hall

By Rebecca Black

Published 06/05/2015

Complaint: Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh
Complaint: Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh

Sinn Fein's council leader in Belfast Jim McVeigh has complained his car was attacked by loyalists as he entered City Hall for the monthly council meeting last night.

Mr McVeigh said his car was surrounded by a crowd of loyalist protesters who kicked the vehicle and struck it with sticks.

He said he planned to make a formal complaint to the PSNI about the matter.

"As I tried to enter the back gates of City Hall my car was surrounded by a crowd of loyalist protesters," he said.

"My car was kicked, bounced and struck with sticks.

"I was verbally abused, and several of the crowd were shouting insults about the murder today of Gerard Davison. Their behaviour was despicable.

"I intend to make a formal complaint to the police tomorrow and ask that the people responsible be investigated.

"Sinn Fein will not be intimidated by thugs, we will continue to pursue our equality agenda in Belfast City Council."

Loyalists have been continuing to stage intermittent protests outside Belfast City Hall over the decision in December 2012 to reduce the number of days that the Union flag is flown from the building.

At the council meeting, an attempt to withhold 70% of funding to groups that organise bonfires in Belfast until after the event was voted down.

Belfast City Council runs a bonfire management programme that monitors what is burned on the July 11 fires.

Groups can claim grants of up to £1,500.

Under recommendations for 2015, participating groups are awarded 70% of the funding on application.

There was outrage in July 2013 when a statue of the Virgin Mary stolen from Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne appeared on a bonfire on the Shankill Road.

It was returned to the church before the bonfire was lit.

Nationalist and some Alliance election posters have been burnt on bonfires.

The burning of flags, emblems, posters or effigies can lose the organising group 20% of their funding.

Burning tyres and toxic materials can also lead to 20% of funding being withheld.

The rules also state that the clearance space between bonfires and buildings should be at least five times the height of the pyre. If this is not abided by, groups can lose 15% of funding.

Displaying paramilitary trappings can lose the groups 5% of funding.

At the meeting of the full council, Sinn Fein's Ciaran Beattie proposed that just 30% of funding be allocated on application, and the remaining 70% withheld until after the event.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP supported this position, expressing concern about behaviour at some bonfires across the city and some of the material that is burned on the pyres.

PUP councillor John Kyle blasted the proposal as "foolish".

"To pass this motion would be a major mistake and a major error in judgment," he said.

"The bonfire programme has been a huge success.

"The number of bonfires has decreased, callouts to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service have decreased, anti-social behaviour at bonfires has decreased."

Belfast Telegraph

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