Belfast mayor flees Loyalist mob under police protection

Belfast Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir escorted away by police after attacks by loyalists

Belfast's Mayor, Sinn Fein’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, received a police escort away from angry Loyalist protesters at the reopening of a park in the unionist Woodvale area of the city.

Ó Muilleoir, a councillor for the Balmoral ward in south Belfast and the publisher of the New York-based Irish Echo, told the PA he was kicked and punched by the mob. The police also reported that nine of their officers were injured in the protest.

None of those injured attended hospital but were treated for bruising and given pain medication. The Mayor resumed his official duties shortly after the incident.

The area of Woodvale, in north Belfast, has already seen loyalist rioting this summer following the decision to prevent Orangemen parading past the national Ardoyne / Shankill area, nearby.

Loyalists believe Sinn Fein are waging a cultural war against them.

The Mayor said the protesters had hijacked a community event and insisted that they are a "small minority" who do not represent the people in the area.

He was heckled as he arrived to the event. It was subsequently cut short and the fracas ensued as he left the venue.

Ó Muilleoir said, “When the lord mayor gets invites there must be no 'no go' areas in Belfast.

“I want to be mayor for all the people.

“We just have to keep going building a peace and not be dragged back. I do not think what happened is representative of the people of the Shankill.

"My message for the people who kicked and punched me is: I will not be giving in to violence, or giving in to yesterday's men.”

He added, "When I became mayor I promised a year of firsts, I didn't realise I would be the first first citizen to be assaulted."

Belfast’s first citizen had earlier been at the reopening of another park in the nationalist area of Falls Road.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) commander in North Belfast, chief inspector Andy Freeburn, condemned the violence.

He said, “The PSNI will be investigating this appalling incident with a view to identifying those responsible.

"This should have been a positive day about the opening of a children's play park in the area, but instead was marred by disorder which has left a number of our community officers injured."