Police launch hate crime investigation after Alliance councillor assaulted while canvassing in Belfast

Police launch hate crime investigation after Alliance councillor assaulted while canvassing in Belfast

POLICE have confirmed they are treating an assault on an Alliance Party councillor as a hate crime.

Michael Long was canvassing in Carncaver Road on Thursday evening when he was approached by two men who began shouting abuse and telling him to leave the area.

When he attempted to continue, Councillor Long claimed his path was blocked and he was assaulted.

However, the councillor for the Lisnasharragh district has vowed to continue campaigning ahead of the May 18 elections.

'Attack on democratic process'

"In my 22 years as an elected representative for this area, I have never been faced with this level of intimidation," said Long, the Alliance leader at Belfast City Council.

"As a local councillor, I work for everyone in my community and this attempt to stop me from engaging with constituents is a clear attack on the democratic process.

"I loathe that I had to leave the street however, I was back on the doors nearby within the hour and I will continue to reach out to people across Lisnasharragh, in every street and area, as I have done throughout my time as a councillor.

"This event will not deter me."

Councillor Long has served on Belfast City Council since 2014, having previously spent 13 years as a member of the old Castlereagh Borough Council.

The former Lord Mayor of Belfast — husband of Alliance Party leader Naomi Long — said he will continue to represent the whole community as he branded his attackers 'thugs'.

"The incident has been reported to the PSNI and I'd like to thank them for their assistance," said Cllr Long.

"These thugs will not deter us from representing every section of our community and we will continue fighting for a shared future."

Hate crime

The PSNI has said they received a report of a man being threatened while distributing election material and confirmed they were treating the incident as a hate crime.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland is committed to doing everything we can to ensure all candidates can participate fully in the forthcoming Northern Ireland council election free from harassment, intimidation and other forms of criminality," said Superintendent Finola Dornan.

"We are treating this as a hate crime and enquiries are ongoing."

Witnesses or anyone with information, including camera footage, are asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 1475 of April 13, 2023.