Sinn Fein councillor’s lack of respect for authority revealing

Morning View
Morning View

The row which erupted in Belfast City Council on Monday may have began with the decision of a DUP councillor to wear a football scarf, but it quickly revealed the intolerance of some Sinn Fein representatives.

Given that sports paraphernalia is not infrequently used in a triumphalist fashion by both sides of the community in Northern Ireland and given her fiery style, Ruth Patterson perhaps should not have been shocked when her decision to don a Linfield scarf led to criticism from republicans.

But if any moment deserved such a gesture, a motion marking a man as respected as David Jeffrey was that time.

But what followed from Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh demonstrated how combustible some members of that party can be.

For all of 11 minutes, McVeigh argued with the Deputy Lord Mayor, Christopher Stalford, over Cllr Patterson’s choice of clothing. In a display which may have dismayed some of Sinn Fein’s more progressive members, Mr McVeigh attempted to either shout down the meeting’s chairman or openly defy his ruling that the meeting should proceed.

The actions of the former IRA prisoner — who is now Sinn Fein’s group leader on the council — will make many unionists think that Sinn Fein in Belfast is courting dissidents by bringing people such as McVeigh on to the council in place of those such as Tom Hartley who had built some rapport with unionists.

McVeigh’s public disrespect for authority went beyond bad manners and suggested that some in Sinn Fein dislike democratic norms.

The aggressive petulance comes in a year in which Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has made an attempt to show some respect to all of Belfast’s citizens.

Sinn Fein needs to stop sending out mixed messages and tame those who appear to struggle with tolerating any vestiges of unionism.