Belfast Telegraph

The former IRA bomber who got under the skin of unionists in City Hall

By Allan Preston

From IRA bomber to Belfast City councillor, Sinn Fein's Jim McVeigh is stepping down from City Hall after seven years to concentrate on his work as a trade union activist.

The 55-year-old was originally co-opted on to his council seat in 2010 to replace Pat Sheehan, now a West Belfast MLA, and became Sinn Fein's Belfast group leader.

Still known by his nickname of 'Flash' McVeigh, he was jailed twice on bombing charges during the Troubles.

His high rank in the IRA also saw him serve as the OC (Officer Commanding) in the Maze Prison.

In 1992, he was jailed for 31 years for conspiring to murder soldiers, but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Reflecting on his time as a councillor, he said he felt privileged to hold the position and was particularly proud of the role his council team played in delivering investment and jobs for Belfast.

He was known for his frequent heated exchanges with unionist councillors.

In November, the DUP's Brian Kingston accused Mr McVeigh of trying to glorify terrorism during a debate on lowering the voting age. After references to the fact that 16-year-olds can join the Army, Mr McVeigh remarked that he too had "joined military forces at the age of 16, but it wasn't the British Army".

In August, he helped pass a council motion allowing contractors to remove material from bonfire sites. Some unionists accused him of waging a cultural war against loyalism, but Mr McVeigh insisted he was only opposed to dangerous bonfires built too close to homes and those used for hate crimes like burning flags or pictures of politicians.

When he leaves the council chamber next month, Mr McVeigh will focus on his work as a Sinn Fein and Trade Union activist with SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union).

He said he wanted to advance workers' rights across Ireland and would continue to work closely with Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney to develop the party's policy on workers' rights.

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