Like old times in City Hall

[caption id="attachment_68368" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile. "]


It was like the good old days in Belfast City Council this week with arguments over flags, the Irish language, protests and walk-outs.

Last Monday evening, Sinn Féin mayor of the city, Niall O Donnghaile, refused to present a Duke of Edinburgh award to a teenage army cadet.

It led to unionist calls for the mayor to resign while hundreds of loyalists gathered at the gates of Belfast City Council the following Thursday during the council's monthly meeting demanding he should go.

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Before that meeting Mayor O Donnghaile said if he had caused offence to the young girl in question and her family then he was sorry, but that wasn't enough for unionist councilors who demanded a further meeting on the issue to be held on Monday of this week and which saw them attempt to force the Sinn Féin man to promise not to repeat his snub.

At that meeting, an Alliance Party amendment recognizing the lord mayor's apology was passed by 29 to 19, after being backed by Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

This led to an angry confrontation between unionist councilors and loyalists at the rear gate of City Hall when news filtered through that unionist motion had failed.

Sinn Féin councilor Jim McVeigh claimed that some loyalist protesters tried to intimidate councilors as they left City Hall on Monday night.

"There was masked men standing outside the City Hall taking photographs of car registrations and screaming threats that they were going to have people killed," he said.

"We will be talking to the PSNI about this matter."

Meanwhile, the findings of the Independent Equality Impact Assessment has been presented to the council. It recommended that the Union Flag, which is currently flown all year round on the City Hall, should be flown only on designated days.

The findings have been welcomed by nationalists at City Hall but have infuriated unionists.

In what was a bad week for unionists councilors, they walked out of last Thursday's monthly meeting when Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance voted to erect a Christmas sign in Irish - Nollaig Shona Duit - at City Hall.

Just another sign of the times.