34-year-old man is charged with grievious boldily harm

Tributes paid to ‘wee scotch Joe’ as police plead for killing info

By Ciara Quinn

POLICE have called for eye-witnesses to come forward following the brutal killing of West Belfast man Joe O’Neill.The popular 60-year-old grandfather from Brooke Park in Andersonstown died in hospital in the early hours of Monday morning after sustaining multiple head injuries following an assault at a taxi depot in King Street.

It is understood that Mr O’Neill, a barman at Cosgroves in the city centre, had finished his shift and was making his way home when a row broke out with two men at a taxi depot shortly after 1am on Sunday. A 34-year-old man has been charged with grievous bodily harm in relation to the incident.

Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Garrett said the O’Neill family are trying to come to terms with the shocking loss of the man known to friends as “Wee Scotch Joe”.

“Joe and his family lived four doors away from me in Brooke Park for more than 10 years. He was from Glasgow but had lived in the North for more than 20 years.

“His death is a terrible tragedy for his family and the West Belfast community. Joe worked at Cosgroves Bar in Castle Street and I understand he had just finished his shift and had gone to get a taxi with a friend.

“Joe went to work and basically he didn’t come home again,” he said.

“He was a hard-working member of our community and I know his wife Maura and teenage children Eoghan and Roise are completely devastated by this. He lived for his family and Celtic Football Club and was a founding member of the Falls Road Emerald Celtic Supporters’ Club.

“This community has been here before with the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths of Harry Holland and Seamus Fox. We will be there for the O’Neill family and support them in any way we can.”

Cllr Garrett called for tighter safety measures to be implemented around city centre taxi depots at night.

“There needs to be a properly regulated taxi rank working in conjunction with the taxi men, especially so late at night. We need to look at getting taxi wardens to help with this and it is something for Belfast City Council and our MLAs to be giving serious consideration to this.”

The Manager of Cosgroves Bar, John Lennon Jnr, said: “Joe really was a great guy. He had been working at the bar for just over a year and had a great way with the customers. What happened is a complete tragedy for his family and friends and he will be missed by all the staff here.”

Clonard Monastery Rector Fr Michael Murtagh, who led prayers at a vigil in King Street on Monday night, said the community is deeply saddened by Mr O’Neill’s death.

“I was asked by friends of Joe’s to go down to Castle Street and say prayers at the place were he was attacked and I was glad to do so. People are very shocked and very saddened by this act of pointless violence which has resulted in a man’s death.

“Castle Street is the avenue into the city centre for the West Belfast community on a Saturday night and it was here that humanity was destroyed on Sunday morning.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “Detectives from Serious Crime Branch want to talk to anyone who was in the King Street/Castle Street area in the early hours of Sunday, October 23 around 1.15am.

The number to call is 028 9056 1804. Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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