Mayor's 'life in danger' during attack

Published Tuesday, 18 February 2014
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An attack on Belfast's Lord Mayor in a city park put his life in danger, he has told a court.

Mayor's 'life in danger' during attack
Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir protected by police in north Belfast. (© UTV)

Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said at one stage he feared neither him nor police officers shielding him from loyalist protestors would make it out.

As three men and a woman faced charges over the scuffles last summer, Mr Ó Muilleoir recalled being kicked, jostled and subjected to a stream of sectarian abuse.

Police had to surround him in a diamond-shaped formation to escape from Woodvale Park.

The Lord Mayor said: "I had no doubt at the time and I have no doubt today that if I had gone down, there's no knowing what would have happened.

"Your life was in peril if you fell."

Belfast Magistrates' Court was packed for Mr Ó Muilleoir's evidence about being targeted as soon as he arrived to re-open the park on 6 August.

He had come from similar duties at Dunville Park, with unionist and nationalist political representatives due to be present at both events.

But he said a banner and laminated posters had been erected to declare him not welcome at Woodvale.

Some of the crowd allegedly shouted "terrorists" and "Fenian b******".

Mr Ó Muilleoir said the pushing and shoving began immediately after he got of his car for the opening and tree-planting ceremony.

Tensions had been running high in the city at the time, with demonstrations continuing over the union flag situation and the ban on Orangemen parading past Ardoyne.

Laughter broke out in the public gallery as the Lord Mayor recalled being hit on the back of the head by a burger.

DUP councillor Ruth Patterson was in the front row, sitting alongside a woman waving a Union flag fan.

Details of the incident emerged as Maureen Simpson, 44, of Palmer Court, Samuel Lendrum, 52, from Lawnbrook Avenue, and Paul Mateer, 45, of Blackmountain Walk - all in Belfast - appeared in the dock charged with disorderly behaviour.

Mateer, working as a photographer for the local Shankill Extra newspaper at the event, faces further counts of obstructing and assaulting police.

A fourth defendant, William Knowles, 41, of Cambrai Street in the city, pleaded guilty to disorderly behaviour before the contested hearing got underway.

According to Mr Ó Muilleoir, unionist representatives were to have been with him at the event to symbolise peace-building in the area.

But instead he was left "isolated" when none were with him as the situation worsened, the court heard.

He was taken to a building in a fenced-off section of the park where police devised their strategy for getting him out.

I have respect for the police officers who put themselves in great danger.

Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

"I think they didn't expect the ferocity of the attack on them and me as we left the park," the Lord Mayor said.

"It was a very hateful atmosphere, very tense and very dangerous."

District Judge George Conner was told how a crowd of up to 70 people surged forward during the exit.

"I thought for a moment we wouldn't get out, that we were going to go down," Mr Ó Muilleoir said.

Amid the "cacophony" of sectarian insult an unidentified protestor kicked him in the leg, it was claimed.

"It was vile abuse, it was violent abuse and it was vitriolic," he said."No one should be subjected to that hate and sectarianism."

Asked about being called 'Martin Miller' by crowd members, the Lord Mayor claimed it was an attempt to deny him his proper name.

"It comes from deep-seated sectarianism, it comes from hate and it comes from a lack of respect," he said."I only hear that type of approach used by people who are bigoted. I think it's silly."

Cross-examined by Kelly Doherty, for Lendrum, about a letter from DUP politicians advising him not to attend the event.

He said some people in the party would have preferred it if he had not gone.

Counsel for Mateer, Jonathan Connolly, questioned him about photographs taken on the day.

"Are you relaxed in the photograph where you're eating a sandwich?" the barrister asked.

"Are you relaxed in the picture where you have a shovel in your hand?"

Mr Ó Muilleoir insisted, however, that both himself and police had been at risk.

He added: "I have no doubt if the protestors had got at me either going in or going out that my life was in danger."

The case continues.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
39 Comments
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (160 days ago):
Ulysses32 in Belfast put it perfectly, nothing more needs added.
it only matters in certain areas to certain people wrote (160 days ago):
Michael in Belfast"I see some asking "Well what did he expect?" Firstly what a moronic question. He expects, like I do, and many many many other Belfast residents to be able to go into a public park and be free from threats, sectarianism and violence" AK in Ireland Woodvale ron, thats because yous are bigots. Linda Ni sinn fein are not facists? I actually dispair lol Johnny in Belfast Dosent surprise me the typical bigoted comments on here!! He was there carrying out his duties. Dorothy in Kansas tommy shankill in shankill... You think certain areas should be no-go areas except for your type 37 comments - above are a few examples of people who didn't comment on psni officers being attacked attending a death in Strabane. says it all
PB in Belfast wrote (161 days ago):
Is that the same Ruth "I should really have learnt from my last episode and keep out of court" Patterson..66
Martin in Carrick wrote (161 days ago):
@ H Campbell in UK. Well said. A very intelligent and open minded comment, it's a pity more people don't think like you do.
Michael in Belfast wrote (161 days ago):
I see some asking "Well what did he expect?" Firstly what a moronic question. He expects, like I do, and many many many other Belfast residents to be able to go into a public park and be free from threats, sectarianism and violence. Don't forget he is Belfasts first citizen so he was also doing his job to the best of his ability by visiting and representing ALL the peoples of Belfast! These sectarian neadarthals will be left behind in their dark and dreary past while the good people of Belfast will move on into peace and prosperity. The people in wood vale park that day are of the same mentality of those that racially abused Anna Lo recently. Time to up the intellectual floor is it not???
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BRIAN ROWAN
The pictures from Stormont this week showed us how politics here still walks in and out of step.
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