A BELFAST busker came under attack over the weekend for singing the controversial Irish ballad Grace.
Musician John Garrity is a regular on the streets of the Northern Irish capital and, with the sun shining and the city enjoying a busking festival, decided to take advantage with a performance over at Donegall Place.
However, Garrity soon found his efforts cut short when a mystery woman became verbally abusive and began kicking over his equipment.
Footage of the incident soon found its way on to social media, where the woman could be heard shouting "Up the UDA" and "I've told you already, we do not support Belfast City Council festival" while an audibly shocked audience watched on.
Perceived as an anti-English song, Grace’s lyrics tells the story of the Rising leader Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford who were married in Kilmainham jail in Dublin shortly before his execution following his role in the rebellion.
But while the song drew an angry reaction from one female onlooker, plenty more were on hand to help Garrity clear up the mess left in her wake.
My friend John Garriety sent me this. He was attacked whilst singing Grace in Belfast. Grace is a love song which tells a story of our shared history. Despite differing views there is no place or excuse for this behaviour. Sending solidarity to John & hope this won’t deter him. pic.twitter.com/ox0vNj2yFW
— Patrice Hardy (@MisssPatrice) July 6, 2019
Writing afterwards on Facebook, the Co Tyrone sing-songwriter defended his performance of the song.
"Today I was attacked during Belfast busking festival for singing Grace, a love song that tells a story about Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford,” he wrote.
"It's part of our history which can't be unwritten. I have respect everyone. Even if we all don't agree on the past there is no excuse for this.
"Belfast is a thriving city. Buskers bring people into the city centre and it’s people like this woman who put visitors off. Since I’ve started singing this song, I’ve received overwhelming support and I will continue to sing it."
He continued: "Despite the efforts of some, times are changing and Belfast is changing."
Since then, Garrity has returned to Facebook with a new picture of him playing behind a protective metal stand which he jokingly claimed the Belfast City Council gave him as a "crowd protection railing".
It’s no laughing matter for the police though, who confirmed to Irish News that the incident is being investigated.
"One incident, which occurred on Royal Avenue, was reported shortly after it occurred at around 1.30pm. We have since become aware of a video on social media which appears to show another incident in Donegall Place involving a woman of a similar description to the first," chief inspector Peter Brannigan said.
"We are working to establish if there is a link between these and other third-party reports regarding two other incidents in the city centre. A witness reported seeing an altercation, possibly involving the same woman and an unknown male, close to the library end of Royal Avenue. It's also believed that a vehicle was struck with a piece of wood by a woman on Howard Street."