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DUP: We warned Lord Mayor he would not be welcome at park

BY AMANDA FERGUSON AND JOANNE SWEENEY

DUP councillors have accused the Lord Mayor of not listening to their advice in attending yesterday's Woodvale Park reopening.

In a statement on behalf of councillors from Court electoral area of Belfast, William Humphrey said they had written to the council over a week ago with their concerns at him officiating at the event.

With no word of condemnation as to injuries sustained by Mr O'Muilleoir and nine police officers, Mr Humphrey, who’s also an MLA, referred to the incident as “entirely preventable” and the visit as “highly inappropriate”.

He said: “We were aware that having him participate in any official capacity would be an affront to many within our community and recommended that this duty be deputised to another council representative, as there was the danger of his presence creating tension which would overshadow a family fun day.

“Clearly the Lord Mayor chose not to listen to that advice.”

Mr Humphrey (below) went on to list his DUP party colleagues’ areas of concern over recent months leading to community tension as “the removal of the Union flag from City Hall, the blocking of the Twelfth of July parade at Woodvale for the first time and the ongoing attacks on our community”.

“We expressed the view that it would be totally inappropriate for the Lord Mayor, as a member of Sinn Fein, a party which talks of a shared future but by their actions has shown nothing but contempt for the culture, history and traditions of our community, to officiate at the public reopening of Woodvale Park.”

Speaking on behalf of his DUP colleagues, the statement added: “Respect and tolerance is a two-way street; you cannot trample all over people's sensitivities and then a matter of weeks later, because you have a chain around your neck, waltz into a community pretending you represent everyone.

“Sinn Fein have chosen this path and until such times as they choose to embrace tolerance and respect, no one will take them seriously when they talk about a shared future.”

Meanwhile, Belfast councillors from across the political spectrum condemned yesterday’s attack on the Lord Mayor at Woodvale Park.

SDLP councillor for Balmoral, Claire Hanna, said what happened to Mr O Muilleoir could not be “condoned in any way”.

“It think it’s outrageous,” she said. “There is no justification for that sort of violent approach.

“There has been a very major investment from city council in the park so it is very fair and reasonable that the first citizen should attend.

“We don’t want there to be ‘no-go areas’ for the first citizen. That is the politics of the past.

“What happened at Woodvale Park cannot be condoned in any way. It was thuggish behaviour.”

SDLP councillor for Upper Falls, Tim Attwood, told the Belfast Telegraph he and party colleague Colin Keenan suffered “a small amount of abuse” from protesters ahead of the violence.

“Cllr Keenan and myself went from Dunville Park to Woodvale Park and some people were not so keen on us being there.

“There was a small amount of abuse, but nothing like the attack on the Lord Mayor.

“I heard the concerns of those involved in the protests, but to attack the Lord Mayor does their case no service whatsoever.

“In recent years what we’ve seen is the Lord Mayor attending and participating in events across the city. It is important the mayor is able to operate in this way.”

Alliance councillor for Pottinger, Maire Hendron, said she was “shocked and appalled”.

“Mairtin has made it clear he is a mayor for everybody,” she said. “It’s a shocking state of affairs.

“The mayor, no matter what party, is always given respect as the first citizen of the city.

“To hear this has happened is appalling.”

Warning: Video may contain obscene language

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said: “As former Lord Mayor you should always take advice from the Lord Mayor’s unit and the officers of the council in regards to your engagements, and it seems that advice was given that the Lord Mayor should not go to Woodvale Park but he decided otherwise.

“I disapprove of any form of violence, but I am fully aware of the anger in the community among the Protestant loyalist unionist community at what has been happening in regards to the loyal order parades and you have to take these things in to consideration whenever you are undertaking engagements.”

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