Northern Ireland news

Nichola Mallon speaks out after staff left feeling 'intimidated' by Covid protest

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon
Connla Young

INFRASTRUCTURE minister Nichola Mallon said her staff have been left feeling "intimidated" and "frightened" after anti-lockdown protesters targeted her office.

The assembly member last night said she now intends to carry out a review of security at her office on Antrim Road in north Belfast.

Ms Mallon, who is also the SDLP's deputy leader, spoke out after four people attended the premises last Monday and delivered a document critical of how authorities have handled the Coronavirus pandemic.

Alarmed members of staff were filmed as the papers were delivered.

Details of the incident emerged after BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan claimed on social media that he and his 80-year-old mother were subjected to anti-vaccine "abuse" in Belfast at the weekend.

Stephen Nolan

Ms Mallon said security was stepped up last year after a woman delivered a letter to the office and filmed a staff member without consent.

The same woman was present during last week's incident.

The most recent document is headed "notice of liability for harm and death".

It claims that "infringement of our inalienable rights and freedoms by so called pandemic laws are unnecessary, unfounded, unconstitutional, undemocratic unlawful, illegal, criminal and may uncur liabilities on the enforcer" and warns that legal action may follow.

Ms Mallon, who has been left feeling "very anxious" over the incident, said similar papers have been sent to party leader Colum Eastwood and MLA Sinéad McLaughlin.

She said a female member of staff was left "very shaken" after the encounter.

"That's why I am angry because my staff didn't take any decisions to do with covid restrictions," she said.

"They are employed to help people in north Belfast and it was very clear on both occasions that I wasn't there and yet they proceeded to film my staff members against their consent and to intimidate and harass them."

Ms Mallon said her staff were "frightened" by the incident.

"For the past year my office staff have been subjected to very angry calls," she said.

"I have been sent very angry vitriolic emails... there's a real undercurrent of anger and vitriol that I have never seen in the 10 years I have been an elected representative."

"But this also comes in the same week as Sir David Amess as well, so my staff are concerned," Ms Mallon added.

The Conservative MP was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery in England on Friday.

"They have been saying to me that they feel anxious and I have a duty of care to them.

"I feel guilty that my staff are being subjected to this when all they want to do is help people."

Ms Mallon said she has "no doubt" it is "a coordinated campaign".

"It's trying to sow mistrust in science, mistrust in the medical profession, mistrust in journalism and mistrust in politicians as well, it's very dangerous."

Justice minister Naomi Long has confirmed Chief Constable Simon Byrne has been engaging with politicians after Sir David's fatal stabbing.

Justice minister Naomi Long

"I think as elected representatives we want to be accessible, we want to be able to be approachable and it's very difficult to balance that against trying to protect yourself, and indeed your staff and other people who are with you.

"So I think (it's) just having that conversation initially about what can be done to try and ensure that people are safe but at the same time that they're not locked away from the very people that they want to engage with."

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