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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Deputy mayor avoids censure
Mr McCoubrey sat on stage while UFF men fired guns
Mr McCoubrey sat on stage while UFF men fired guns
Belfast City councillors have decided not to censure the deputy lord mayor after he attended a rally where loyalist gunmen fired shots.

Councillor Frank McCoubrey's Ulster Democratic Party is linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters, which is involved in a violent feud with the rival Ulster Volunteer Force.

The Alliance Party had tabled a motion to censure Mr McCoubrey after he sat on the stage at a UDA-linked festival on the Shankill Road in Belfast when masked gunmen and women walked up and fired a volley of shots cheered by a large crowd.
Frank McCoubrey
Frank McCoubrey: "Did not know masked men would appear"

But the motion "deploring" the UDP councillor's presence was amended to say all members of the council should work together to make violence a thing of the past.

The show of strength two weeks ago raised tensions in the loyalist feud, but Mr McCoubrey said he did not know it was going to take place.

Speaking to the BBC he said: "I went to the festival with my three children and my intentions were to have a great day with the children and go home.

"But with some of the events which did occur things were starting to get a bit hot and heavy. People were starting to panic. I was on the stage. I made my speech, I sat down again and the masked men stood in front of me.

"I don't think it would have been very smart of me to push a gunman out of the way and walk off the stage like people said I should have done.

"If I had known what was going to happen I wouldn't have been on that stage."

'Difficult position'

Councillor David Alderdice who had proposed the Alliance motion said: "He shouldn't have been there. It was avoidable.

"I have spoken to other members of the UDP who said he shouldn't have been there.

"If he meant to be there that was wrong. If he made a mistake that was a lack of judgement and puts him in a very difficult position whereby I don't think he can truly represent all of the citizens as deputy Lord Mayor."

Alban Maginness of the nationalist Socialist Democratic and Labour Party who said he was prepared to back the motion said Mr McCoubrey did not act responsibly.

"He put himself into a situation where he was publicly compromised and then having been compromised he did nothing to remove himself from that situation," he said.

"If he had any courage and respect for his office then he would have removed himself and left the display."

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See also:

03 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Church leader's warning over feud
02 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Belfast parade brings tight security
02 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Firebomb attack linked to feud
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Security review after loyalist deaths
25 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Funeral of murdered loyalist
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