Northern Ireland news

Video: Busker attacked in Belfast city centre for singing Irish ballad Grace

A woman kicked the busker's microphone stand and other equipment during as he sang Grace
Mairead Holland

A BUSKER who was attacked during a festival in Belfast while singing Irish ballad Grace was back performing on the streets again yesterday.

John Garrity was singing and playing the guitar in Donegall Place when a woman approached him, shouting abuse and kicking over his microphone stand and other equipment.

The woman can be heard shouting "Up the UDA" and "I've told you already, we do not support Belfast City Council festival".

There were audible gasps of surprise and shock from the watching audience, with people then helping to pick up the coins from the tips bucket which was kicked down the footpath.

Writing afterwards on his Facebook page, the singer-songwriter from Co Tyrone, said: "Today I was attacked during Belfast busking festival for singing Grace, a love song that tells a story about Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford.

"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 added: "Despite the efforts of some, times are changing and Belfast is changing."

People took to Facebook to show their support for Mr Garrity, praising him for keeping his cool and telling him to "keep singing".

John Garrity was busking in Belfast city centre 

And yesterday, a fresh photo on his Facebook page showed him playing behind metal stands, with a post in which he jokingly thanked Belfast City Council for providing him with a "crowd protection railing".

Grace tells the story of 1916 Rising leader Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford who were married in Kilmainham jail in Dublin shortly before his execution for his part in the rebellion.

It is a favourite of rock legend Rod Stewart who has recorded a cover version.

Last year the singer defied an alleged BBC ban by singing several lines of the song while being interviewed on the station’s breakfast programme.

Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett were married in Kilmainham jail in Dublin shortly before his execution for his part in the 1916 Rising

"They won't let me sing 'Grace' because of its Irish, anti-English overtones in the song," he told Billboard magazine.

However, the BBC denied this was the case, saying "no songs are banned on the BBC."

The singer also visited Grace Gifford Plunkett's grave in March when he was in Dublin to take part in an interview on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.

Police last night said officers were making enquiries into instances of a woman with blonde hair verbally abusing buskers and damaging their equipment in two separate occurrences in Belfast city centre.

"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," said chief inspector Peter Brannigan.

"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."

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