'United voice' needed against flag unrest

Published Wednesday, 16 January 2013
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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called for all political leaders to "speak with one voice" against the disorder that has broken out following flag protests.

'United voice' needed against flag unrest
Martin McGuinness and Niall Ó Donnghaile in Short Strand. (© Presseye)

The Sinn Féin MLA spoke as he visited the Short Strand in east Belfast on Wednesday.

There were violent scenes near the interface on Saturday as loyalist crowds returning from a city centre flag protest clashed with nationalist residents. Trouble erupted again on Monday night, amid reports that local homes were attacked on both sides of the community.

Mr McGuinness said he was there to "stand in solidarity with what is a small, isolated but very proud Catholic community" that has "borne the brunt of sectarianism" in recent weeks.

"We need to make it clear that we are not going to bow the knee to so-called loyalists or so-called republicans," he said.

"We need to be seen to be giving leadership. We need to be seen to stand together.

"We need to be seen to stand with the PSNI and the PSNI need to be seen to stand with the community.

"They do that knowing that they have the full support of our political leaders and they have our full support in bringing those people who have confronted our institutions, who have confronted our peace process over the course of the last number of weeks, before the courts."

The presence of Martin McGuinness here today has inevitably led to questions as to why he and the First Minister have not been seen together since the trouble began.

UTV's Tracey Magee

"I think this is an occasion where we do need to be seen to be standing together," Mr McGuinness told UTV.

The senior Sinn Féin politician said the trouble was being caused by a "very tiny minority who have obviously shown themselves capable of catapulting themselves into world headlines with a very negative message".

"Those people have to be defeated," he said, "and the only way they can be defeated is by resolute action by the political leaders and police."

"As I stand front and centre against the activities of violent so-called republicans, we also need to be seen to be standing together against those anti democratic, violent so-called loyalists who are trying to confront our institutions and damage the political progress that has been made," added Mr McGuinness.

Much of the violence that has broken out following weeks of flag protests has been concentrated in east Belfast.

NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was on the other side of the interface on Wednesday to meet with community and church leaders.

She called for politicians to tackle sectarianism.

Ms Villiers added it was important for all political representatives to be forthright in condemning violence and calling for real progress on building a shared society.

"I am encouraging them to continue to work together and send out a signal strongly that Northern Ireland is open for business," she said.

"They need to make progress on unfinished business for some in Northern Ireland.

"There remains deep-seated divisions on sectarian lines. It is hugely important we have bold moves to try and address that."

© UTV News
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28 Comments
history repeating itself in Glasgow wrote (591 days ago):
ridEamo I so agree with u... Last week I sent message but utv never printed it... Martin McGuinness has no problem sticking his neck out condemning. But we have not heard the slightest whimper of unionist politicians doing this . I think it's about time Sinn Fein were given some credit for all the good wrk achieved rather than slated at every turn. Just watched Steven Nolan and the behaviour of those so called "unionists" was pathetic to listen to. I wonder if they realise how ridiculous they sound ..talk about panic....
Tendwayi in Antrim wrote (592 days ago):
Ok, calm down, calm down. There should be a rule where you have to have a dictionary handy before you post up here.
realistic in planet earth wrote (592 days ago):
where's Peter? you would think if he wanted the east belfast seat so much then he would at least visit 'his people' there? no?
martin in belfast wrote (592 days ago):
Some posters on here need to be told the difference between loyalists and protestants. Most 'protestants' in NI want nothing to do with these protests and have accepted that the flag was removed from flying 365 days/year after a democratic vote was taken. A small number of Loyalists (approx 2000) are hell bent on dragging this place back to the brink of war. I laughed last night while watching a certain TV show, clueless thugs shouting down people everytime they didn't agree with a comment from someone else. Mark my words, these protests will do nothing but split the unionist vote even more. As for the flag going back up??? Register to vote, wait for the next election, vote in a party that will represent your view - blocking roads, attacking ordinary hard working people and police officers will never return the flag to the city hall.
Boru in Ireland wrote (592 days ago):
I do hope Scotland goes Independent - it seems the only hope for N.Ireland (the northern part of Ireland).
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