Bloomberg backs Belfast lord mayor
Belfast's lord mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir is refusing to be intimidated by a violent few who want to drag the city backwards, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has said.
As police work to identify loyalists who kicked and punched Sinn Fein member Mr O Muilleoir at the official opening of a park in the city's Protestant Woodvale district on Monday, Mr Bloomberg said it was a mayor's job to represent all people and all communities equally.
He said he knows Mr O Muilleoir is fully committed to that principle.
Mr Bloomberg, who met Mr O Muilleoir in New York shortly after his election, sent him a personal message which declared: "Our city stands squarely with him and all those who are working for unity and progress in Belfast and across Northern Ireland."
There have been simmering sectarian tensions in Belfast since before Christmas when the city council voted to restrict the flying of the Union flag over City Hall to designated days only.
There was more trouble on the streets last month when Orangemen were banned from parading close to the nationalist and republican Ardoyne district on a stretch of road not far from the Woodvale district.
Police confirmed that a 30-year-old man has been charged with the attempted murder of a police officer during rioting in that area.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is under growing pressure to ban a republican parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, on Sunday.
The parade is to commemorate IRA men killed in the Troubles, including two who died after a bomb they were preparing to plant in the town, close to the border with Co Donegal in the Irish Republic, exploded prematurely.
Unionists claim the parade is a "glorification of terrorism".