City Hall probes Mayor’s chair stunt by Britain First’s Fransen
The deputy leader of far-right group Britain First is being investigated by Belfast City Council after she made a political statement from the Lord Mayor's chair at the City Hall.
The group posted a video on Facebook featuring Jayda Fransen which was viewed more than 15,000 times yesterday.
She had just appeared in court to learn she will face trial over comments made at a Belfast rally last summer.
In the video Ms Fransen is seen sitting in the Lord Mayor's chair in a councillor's robes saying she wanted to tell her supporters that she intended to fight the charges and clear her name for a speech "in which I mentioned the 'I' word - Islam".
Independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting said she had facilitated a City Hall tour for Ms Fransen.
Former Belfast DUP Lord Mayor Brian Kingston said what Ms Fransen had done was an "abuse of privilege" by the councillor.
"I, like many others, show people around City Hall - but it is not for them to abuse the Lord Mayor's seat for making political statements," he said.
"Jayda Fransen has nothing to do with Belfast City Council and she should not be using the chamber to make statements.
"I am astonished.
"She is a constant attention-seeker and this is just a foolish publicity stunt to which the council should have no part in."
Ms Bunting said Ms Fransen was entitled to visit and tour City Hall as others do on a daily basis.
"I don't believe I have abused any privileges in any way, it was certainly not my intention," she said.
"I do not see why there should be such an issue with it.
"Britain First is a political party, they are political activists and they have their opinions and policies, lots of which I agree with.
"People may not agree with their opinion but they still have a right to their opinions and to having their say in our society under freedom of speech rights."
Last year Britain First came to global prominence when US President Donald Trump retweeted posts from Ms Fransen to his millions of followers - provoking a storm of anger across the political spectrum.
Ms Bunting said it was "nonsense" to describe the party as racist.
"They have members of every creed and colour and from many different ethnic minorities, including Chinese people and people with black skin.
"They have an ideology, a way of life they believe in and want to celebrate it, and they see people going against that, and when they raise it they are made out to be criminals."
Sinn Fein's City Hall leader Jim McVeigh said the sight of Britain First's deputy leader in the Lord Mayor's seat was not an image Belfast should be sending out.
"It's a disgrace someone like that should be allowed anywhere near such a democratic space," he said.
"It's not a good image for the city and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again."
A Belfast City Council spokeswoman added: "Council has been made aware of the video post and is currently looking into the circumstances.
"The usual procedures for those wishing to film or use council premises were not followed.
"We received no request nor were we made aware of these plans."