Alliance 'not intimidated' by threat

Published Wednesday, 05 December 2012
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Alliance leader David Ford says his party will not be intimidated amid a second day of protests outside constituency offices in reaction to a Belfast City Council vote restricting the flying of the Union flag.

Alliance 'not intimidated' by threat
A protest has been held at the Alliance Party office for a second day. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Ford said his colleagues will "continue to work for a fair, shared and equal society for everybody" after Belfast Councillor Laura McNamee was advised by police not to return home on Tuesday due to a security risk.

Reacting, Mr Ford said: "Any threat to a democratically elected politician for carrying out their duty, for saying what they said they would do is utterly outrageous."

On Wednesday the First and deputy First Ministers also condemned the threats.

"They need to stop and those people in positions of influence need to use their influence to ensure that these activities cease," Martin McGuinness said.

Peter Robinson added: "There are some issues that parties are not going to agree on, and that's a fact anywhere in the world and in those circumstances those issues have to be determined democratically, and peacefully, it has to be said. I certainly deplore any personal attack or threat on any elected representative or indeed any person in Northern Ireland."

On Wednesday a second protest was organised outside the Alliance constituency office in east Belfast, with Union flags and red, white and blue balloons.

Local Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said the party's constituency services continued despite attempts to "disrupt" work.

"The participants in these protests must be aware that they are causing serious damage to local businesses working flat out to deliver much needed economic development and jobs in this area and I would urge them to cease this disruption and I would welcome them to direct their concerns in a more safe and constructive manner," he said.

There are serious and significant sensitivities about flag flying, but these decisions must be taken on the basis of sound, reasoned discussions and democratic vote, not as a result of mobs seeking to beat down the door of City Hall.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Violence flared in the city centre on Monday night following the passing of the Alliance motion to display the Union flag at City Hall on 17 designated days.

The plan, which follows the accepted protocol on flying the Union flag at Stormont, was backed by 29 votes to 21. Nationalists had previously wanted to remove it altogether.

Mr Ford described the vote as a "balanced decision in line with the Equality Commission recommendation that the Union flag should only fly on designated days".

"Alliance proposed a compromise that nationalists accepted, which unionists will not yet recognise as a valid compromise."

He said his party had not backed Sinn Féin and the SDLP but had suggested an alternative proposal. He said a similar motion was passed in Lisburn City Council seven years ago.

DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said unionists had been "very clear" in condemning the violence and intimidation.

"This country is still part of the United Kingdom and the Union flag is the flag of this country. It's recognised in international law so why can't we fly the flag on our premier civic building in our capital city?" He also asked.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers also condemned the violence scenes.

She said the decision on flying the Union flag was "a matter for Belfast City Council to decide".

Ms Villiers said: "I fully appreciate the strength of feeling on the flying of flags, but there is nothing that could possibly justify the scenes of disorder that were witnessed outside City Hall in Belfast earlier this week."

© UTV News
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10 Comments
jen in lisburn wrote (721 days ago):
Kieran D, that tricolour at divis offends me, i find it very difficult expalining to my children why a foreign flag is allowed to fly and our own flag isnt. Perhaps unionists are more tolerant, and the moment they show how theyve had enough, they come under such harsh critisicm. Put the Union Jack back up.
Johnny Mac in Belfast wrote (722 days ago):
Bringing the mob out onto the streets has always been a feature of unionist politics. Just look at our past history. Unionist leaders have a duty not to use inflammatory language when referring to democratic decisions that they don't like. I have a new respect for David Ford for the way he has handled these attacks on his party.
al in upton park wrote (722 days ago):
dave the support for loyalists in england is massive most football teams in the uk has support for loyalism chelsea,westham,millwall,sunderland,to name just a couple do ya not remember when rangers got to the uefa cup final in manchester 250,000 supporters all loyalist dave u dont have a clue pal
Kieran D in Newtownabbey wrote (723 days ago):
The Alliance Party and David Ford are a breath of fresh air. In our part of the world for years we blamed politicians for our troubled and divided society. Look what happens when a party shows a bit of common sense,leadership and takes a small step towards a shared society. It's interesting to note that at the outset of the troubles there was a furore over an Irish flag in Divis street. Now they fly there all year round and nobody bats an eyelid. It makes you wonder!!
Ryan in Belfast wrote (723 days ago):
I've got to admit, my respect for the Alliance Party has rose greatly, their stance on this matter proves that their party is not to devoted to Unionism or Nationalism but to ALL the communties in the 6 counties/Northern Ireland, im surprised Alliance dont have more MLA's. As for the threats made to SF/SDLP/Alliance from extremist loyalists: no one is afraid of your threats and we were not be frightened into "mob rule politics". We're living in 2012, not 1912 and we're trying to make Belfast a city for all people.
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