The actions of Belfast's Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile and the way that he snubbed a young Army Cadet are but one aspect of a rather unpleasant atmosphere that Sinn Fein has introduced into Belfast City Council.
At the local government elections in May there was a significant change in the team of Sinn Fein councillors and this has resulted in a much more abrasive approach which is poisoning the atmosphere.
Sinn Fein are the largest party but they have only 16 of the 51 seats on the Council. The DUP have 15, the SDLP have 8, Alliance have 6, the UUP have 3, the PUP have 2 and there is one Independent Unionist. There are 24 nationalists (SF and SDLP) and 21 unionists (DUP, UUP, PUP and Ind U) and so the 6 Alliance councillors hold the balance of power.
Nevertheless Sinn Fein are trying to bully the Council into following a Sinn Fein agenda. Moreover that is not just about symbolic or iconic issues such as the Union flag and the Irish language. It is also about Council programmes and expenditure.
Sinn Fein want equality, which is something they often claim to espouse, set aside as they bully their way forward and the net result has been to poison the atmosphere in the Council.