Rioters 'the enemies of democracy'

Published Monday, 14 January 2013
Comments
Toggle font size
Print

First Minister Peter Robinson said those who engage in violence on the streets are "the enemies of democracy".

The DUP leader was speaking after further trouble erupted in east Belfast over the weekend, linked to the dispute over the flying of the Union flag.

"This issue will never be solved on the streets but only through democratic means," Mr Robinson told the Assembly on Monday.

"You do not respect a Union flag if you are using it as a weapon to charge against someone. You are not showing respect for the Union flag if you need to wear a mask when carrying it."

Saturday saw 29 police officers injured amid "heavy and sustained attacks" which broke out after loyalists and nationalists clashed at the Short Strand interface, following a protest in city centre. Police also came under attack in the Castlereagh Street area.

It is the ballot box that will decide Northern Ireland's political direction. Those who are engaged in violence on the streets are not friends of Unionism, they are the enemies of democracy

Peter Robinson

On Friday, more than 33 petrol bombs were thrown at the PSNI amid serious disorder in Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey.

It comes after Belfast City Council started flying the Union flag only on designated days at City Hall following a vote in December.

Mr Robinson continued: "We rightly condemn the violence that has taken place but, we must also set out a political way forward.

"Last week the leader of the Ulster Unionist party and myself convened a meeting of the Unionist Forum to draw together stands of Unionist thinking, both those who were elected to this house and those who were not represented. I believe this offers a vehicle for those who seriously want to discuss and address issues of concern."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said political parties must stand together.

"I think that the solution can be found in the example that was shown by all the political parties in the aftermath of the murder of two soldiers at Massereene; the murder of Stephen Carroll and the murder of Ronan Kerr," explained the Sinn Féin minister.

"What works for us is the sight of all the political parties standing together against those who believe that violence has a way forward."

He added that the disorder is challenging the political institutions, but said he does not believe those involved in violence represent the majority of unionists.

"A challenge from people who do not have a mandate and who represent nobody but themselves," Mr McGuinness continued.

"I do not believe that they speak for the vast majority of unionists within our society. These are people who are associated with the British National Party type politics.

"These are people who are clearly, to some degree, sectarian bigots."

This needs to end. Political leadership needs to be given. We all need to stand together and I absolutely believe that the PSNI need to do their job

Martin McGuinness

Justice Minister David Ford, whose Alliance Party has been subjected to a number of threats and attacks during the unrest, hit out at what he called the "re-sectarianisation of Northern Ireland".

He said: "We have seen 100 police officers injured and many others injured or put in fear. We have seen the damage to inward investment, we have seen young people being given a criminal record which will damage their prospects for life.

"We have seen in fact the re-sectarianisation of Northern Ireland.

"I believe it is time we saw a united approach. We need people to wind down the language and to not build up and hype up the language which got people on to the streets in protest.

"There has to be support for the police and not the constant criticism from people who do not like operational decisions one way or the other."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the new Unionist Forum is the way forward.

"Leadership is to condemn what is wrong but also offer an alternative," he said.

"To me, that is the Unionist Forum - a political way forward where we can discuss the issues that underlie the vote on the flag."

Meanwhile the SDLP leader, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, said progress must be built on a foundation of parity of esteem for all communities.

"The whole basis of our political settlement and indeed of our future together is parity of esteem," he said.

"Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt are either for parity of esteem or they are not. If they are, they must make it the basis of any flags settlement.

"The protesters are denying parity of esteem. The leaders of political unionism have to make that clear. It would greatly assist in de-escalating the situation if they would make that declaration in the clearest terms possible, and make it now."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "I abhor and without reservation condemn the repeated violence that we have seen in recent days and weeks.

"The moral authority is lacking in the House to say to people not to engage in violence because this House and its institutions and the denial of the basics of democracy -- the right to vote a party out of government or even the right to have an opposition -- are the very things that show a lack of authority in the House on the moral issues," he added.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
22 Comments
Jim in Belfast wrote (456 days ago):
I have had quite enough of this, you the bigoted minority are running rampant in our streets, causing mayhem, and putting more strain on an already fragile economy. I suppose it alright for you who do not have a mortgage to watch as the rest of the UK is crawling out of a recession and your busy putting NI back at the bottom of the barrel. We will get no more injection of capital from company’s outside NI and you are putting NI businesses at risk. NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE! Stop rioting or leave! WE, the majority of Northern Irish people do not want you to continue this destructive behaviour, it doesn’t matter if you are from the east, west, north, or south. if you are in the street rioting and causing mayhem you are not welcome in this society. To a degree I agree with "DALE" in one of the first comments although his statement that "It is ironic however that it is not Republicans who will destroy Northern Ireland" shows that even level headed intelligent people in NI harbour some sectarian views. To get back on point I and the vast majority of hard working NI residents do not want this to continue, you may all go back to your hovels and get off our roads.
Susan in Belfast wrote (457 days ago):
Well said Dale. I went from ambivalence to now feel strongly that the flag should be flown only on the same days that all of GB fly the flag. Shame on Robinson and Nesbitt for literally fueling the fires in East Belfast! All of this is hurting tourism and our economy...I hope it's worth it!
tommy in belfast wrote (457 days ago):
This needs to end. Political leadership needs to be given. We all need to stand together and I absolutely believe that the PSNI need to do their job Martin McGuinness WELL I THINK THE RUC SHOULD HAVE DONE THEIR JOB YEARS AGO MARTIN THINK BACK TO WHEN YOU WHERE AS BAD OR SHOULD I SAY WORSE THAT THIS SHORT MEMORIES YOU ARE ALL THE SAME EVERY ONE OF YOU POLITIANS NONE OF YOU ARE WORTH A VOTE TIME THE POWER WENT BACK TO WESTMINSTER AND PUT YOU ALL OUT OF POCKET
Brian in Ballymena wrote (457 days ago):
I have to laugh at all these politicans running around like headless chickens, preaching about democracy. What democracy? We have terrorists sitting in stormont dictating politics. And then we have their cohorts the DUP, Alliance SDLP etc. They collect big wage packets with all the extras and that is what they are afraid of losing if this present trouble continues. They dont give a damn about the ordinary man in the street. I am an ex-service man and served during the troubles and I am proud to be British. Removing the union flag from the city hall was like a kick in the teeth to me and all other proud ulstermen. Since the good friday agreement all sinn fein/ira have done is take take take. Enough is enough i say. No more are we prepared to be walked over. No Surrender.
Vic in Belfast wrote (457 days ago):
@Dale in east belfast, well said, we need more people with courage to speak for the working class on both sides
POST A COMMENT:
Name:  
Email address*:    
Location:  
Validation:
House Rules:  
Your Comment:  
[All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Your name, location and comment will be displayed on this page if your post passes moderation.]
MOST POPULAR GALLERIES
Larne
Mon 31 March 2014
Carrick disturbances
Fri 11 April 2014
President Higgins visits UK
Tue 08 April 2014