A man who was accused of reducing a Belfast City Council meeting to a “circus” has refused to apologise.
Jim McVeigh, a councillor for the lower Falls and the leader of Sinn Fein on the council, launched into a furious argument with the chairman last month, sparked by the fact one of the councillors was wearing a football scarf.
And when the matter of this noisy fracas was raised at Tuesday’s monthly gathering of the council, he said: “You’ll not be surprised to hear that I will not be apologising”, adding that “politics is a passionate business”.
The fiasco had erupted on March 3, when DUP councillor Ruth Patterson wrapped a Linfield scarf around herself when delivering a light-hearted, widely-supported tribute to the club’s manager.
She had almost reached the end of her address when councillor McVeigh interjected to ask whether it was appropriate to have such a piece of sportswear in the chamber – but was told by acting chairman Christopher Stalford that there was no formal rule for clothing.
Councillor McVeigh, a former IRA convict, refused to accept his ruling, and despite calls to sit down and be quiet, he continued to remonstrate – with the chairman eventually saying that proceedings had descended into a “circus”, and that councillor McVeigh was acting like a “petulant child”.
Councillor McVeigh courted unionist consternation again on Tuesday, when he told councillors there was a “huge difference” between a recent paramilitary-style republican display at Whiterock Leisure Centre, and similar displays in loyalist areas.