Alliance councillor Tom Campbell has said he was right to call those planning a protest against Belfast City Council’s decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag a “rabble” given the subsequent violence which ensued.
At Monday night’s Policy and Governance Committee meeting the University representative said: “Prior to the past week’s actions I described those people taking part in protests as a rabble.
“Any law-abiding person would have that similar view given that police officers have been injured, property damaged and civilians lives disrupted and hopefully others will join with me in calling for an end to the trouble.”
Councillor Mark Cosgrove responded to the comments, saying: “Family members of mine attended the protest against the decision and the violence that followed was not in their name and it is totally regretful and I am sorry that comment has been repeated in the chamber.”
Councillor Campbell replied that he hoped councillor Cosgrove’s relatives would pass on any information to the police on the disturbances if they had it, to which he was shouted down by unionist members of the council.
One member shouted: “Catch a grip.”
Committee chairman, alderman Billy Ball called for order, he said: “I would remind members that we have the Press here this evening and we need to be careful what we say and not to show our tempers.”
Following the meeting, a spokesperson for the Newtownabbey Branch of the DUP called on councillor Campbell to apologise for his comment.
“The remark made by councillor Campbell is extremely offensive and there is a lot of anger in the Unionist community. For an elected representative to insult the electorate is, simply, misguided,” he said.