Robinson hits out at Skainos trouble

Published Friday, 31 January 2014
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First Minister Peter Robinson has condemned the loyalist violence which flared outside a community centre in east Belfast on Thursday evening.

Robinson hits out at Skainos trouble
A bin is alight amid a police presence after a protest at the Skainos Centre. (© Samuel Severn)

Around 100 people threw stones and other missiles at former IRA bomber Pat Magee as he arrived to give a guest speech at the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road.

Police lines also came under attack with four officers suffering minor injuries, while the windows of two PSNI vehicles were smashed.

DUP leader Mr Robinson said those behind the protest had not challenged republicanism but had only damaged their own community.

"The actions of those who attacked the Skainos Centre and the police are to be condemned," the First Minister said on Friday.

"Those rioting on the streets did not challenge republicans instead they took the focus away from a debate which heard how the republican terror campaign ended in failure.

"Protest is a legitimate part of our freedoms which must be protected but only when carried out within the law."

Pat Magee, who was convicted of the 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, was attending an event entitled 'Listening to your Enemies', alongside Jo Berry.

For me the death of my father changed my life forever and I can’t go back to what I was but I have decided to bring something positive out of it.

Jo Berry

Her father, Sir Anthony Berry, was one of five people killed in the IRA blast during the Tory party conference, but she has since forgiven Mr Magee for his part in the attack.

Ms Berry told UTV she believes Thursday night's trouble should not overshadow the "incredible dialogue" which took place inside the Skainos Centre.

"For me the story is what happened in the room, that is the most important thing," she said.

"The people who were there were courageous, respectful, dignified, intelligent and articulate, and we had an incredible dialogue and nothing should take away from that."

The event carried on as planned but it is understood Mr Magee and Ms Berry had to enter the building through a back door and left in a police landrover after it ended.

Loyalist community worker Jim Wilson, who attended the talks because he wanted to question Mr Magee, said he was attacked as he came out of the community centre.

"As an ex-loyalist internee I decided to go because I wanted to pose a couple of questions to him," Mr Wilson told UTV.

"When I came out I got a tirade of abuse from people on the streets calling me a traitor, calling me a Lundy, you name it. A brick was thrown at my car, my grandson and me got into the car and went to drive off and my car got kicked. When I got home my family were in bits.

There is a section of loyalism out there that doesn’t want to do anything that’s progressive or productive.

Jim Wilson

"I've worked tirelessly for the loyalist community for 40-odd years, tried to be a voice of reason, and after last night I'll struggle to be able to continue to do this."

The trouble followed a graffiti attack on the Skainos Centre overnight on Wednesday.

Two men painted the words 'No IRA bombers' and sectarian slogans in black across the windows of the centre in an incident which police are treating as a hate crime.

Police have also launched an investigation into Thursday's trouble, which first flared at 7.10pm and then again between 8pm and 8.40pm.

The PSNI said: "We are not attributing last night's violence to any paramilitary organisation."

Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long said there "can be no justification for the violence" that occurred and appealed for calm.

The Alliance politician said: "It is deeply disappointing that this trouble has occurred at an event which is aimed at breaking down the barriers in our society."

Meanwhile Ms Berry stressed that, that while it hasn't been easy, she feels reconciliatory events such as this are an important part of the peace process.

She said: "I see it as a big step in the peace process where former enemies sit down and not agree but listen to each other with respect.

"I have studied peace processes around the world and this is a big part of what happens, people who were using violence now have to find a way to work together to create a peaceful future.

"It is hard but it needs to happen and I sense a huge support and resonance towards people who want peace."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
34 Comments
gerry in belfast wrote (298 days ago):
There are ex uda/uvf men that come on to the falls road every year for a talk back session in st Louise's college during the festival and there is never one bit of trouble!,so to all the idiots who said this would never happen in a nationalist area what do you say now???
Jonathan in Belfast wrote (298 days ago):
Umm in Belfast, what on earth has Maggie Thatcher got to do with this story, like seriously, what are you even talking about. It's usually nice to keep the comments relevant and totally knee-jerk random. Also, as it happens I think you'll find that the overwhelmingly vast majority of the 'partying' over Mrs. Thatchers demise was done in Britain, nevertheless what this has to do with absolutely anything is a mystery
PB in Belfast wrote (299 days ago):
Every time this skainos centre is in the news there's always trouble ..anything positive going to happen at it..
Deeko in Belfast UK wrote (299 days ago):
How would Nationalists like Michael Stone to be invited up to the falls for a wee chat????.
Ryan in An Dun wrote (300 days ago):
Do people in the PUL community know what this makes them look like? Even their own "community workers" are being assaulted. It's just goes to show how much of a joke they are. What have they accomplished?
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