Robinson calls for talks to end violence

Published Sunday, 13 January 2013
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First Minister Peter Robinson has said the flag issue should only be tackled through democratic means, ahead of a meeting with senior politicians from Belfast, Dublin and London.

Robinson calls for talks to end violence
The aftermath of Saturday's disorder on the Castlereagh Road. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Robinson condemned the violent attacks during which 29 police officers were injured in east Belfast and homes in the nationalist Short Strand area were damaged on Saturday.

Trouble flared on the Albertbridge Road when loyalist protestors returning from a mostly peaceful rally at Belfast City Hall clashed with nationalist youths.

It was the latest in a series of protests held by loyalists after Belfast City Council voted last month to restrict the flying of the Union flag over City Hall to 18 designated days.

"There are political issues and people that feel disengaged and people that feel if we are trying to build a shared future they are not getting their share," the DUP leader told the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

It is no accident that the violence is occurring predominantly in those areas that are considered to be suffering from deprivation.

Peter Robinson

The decision to limit the flying of the Union flag was supported by the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin and the SDLP, and Mr Robinson said he believed it was a "bad" move.

"It was a bad decision but the only way of addressing the bad decision is through the democratic process," he said.

Mr Robinson, along with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, is due to meet with the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers next week to discuss the flag dispute.

Mr Gilmore, who is also the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the violence is being orchestrated.

"Those behind it are known criminals, intent on creating chaos.

"This has nothing to do with real issues around flags and identity in a shared society which are the subject of intensive political discussions at present," he said.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams visited homes in the Short Strand area on Sunday.

He said residents feel let down by the police and called for politicians to stand up to sectarianism.

"The people of the Short Strand would not have a lot of confidence in the PSNI to start with, but what they do have is a certain faith that things will get better," he said.

Mr Adams said the violence that took place on Saturday was orchestrated and "part of a deliberate policy of coming to these so-called interface areas and attacking people only on the basis that they are Catholic".

"The people of the Short Strand were not out rioting. The people of the Short Strand were not out hijacking. The people of the Short Strand were not out wearing balaclavas and hoods. The people of the Short Strand were not attacking the PSNI. The people of the Short Strand were involved in no activity at all," he claimed.

We will not tackle sectarianism by running away from it. We have to face up to it. We have to stand full square against what is happening.

Gerry Adams

Police said missiles were thrown by "rival factions" at the flashpoint during Saturday's disorder.

In total, 99 officers have been injured in five weeks of rioting across Northern Ireland, with much of the unrest concentrated on east Belfast.

So far police say 110 arrests have been made, with 84 charged, eight reported to the Public Prosecution Service, 17 released on bail and one adult cautioned.

A 32-year-old woman has been charged with disorderly behaviour and obstructing a constable in connection with the disorder in Castlereagh Street on Saturday.

She is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Monday.

Last week unionist representatives gathered at Parliament Buildings to discuss issues of concern to loyalists, during the first meeting of the newly-formed Unionist Forum.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the forum "offered a positive alternative" to the disorder.

"Street violence from so-called unionists, no matter what age, advances nothing but the cause of Irish nationalism. It is high time those involved in rioting realised they are destroying the very cause the hope to promote."

But politicians from other parties have called for more cross-community talks to dispel tensions.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane said people are angry at the disruption.

"This violence has shown the deep rooted divisions that still exist in our society. We must see action to deliver a truly shared future.

"This can only be done through working together to seek shared solutions, not through the establishment of groups which seek to exclude those whose viewpoint may differ from yours."

A second peace rally was held at Belfast City Hall, where campaigners made five minutes of noise in opposition to the violent outbreaks on Sunday.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
67 Comments
curtis in belfast wrote (459 days ago):
so peter robinson and his party have call us the unionist population onto the streets to protest. then as soon as we hit the streets he goes and hides on the house on the hill leaving us with no leadership. is it any wonder the riots happening. people are frustrated with this and as soon as something happens the frustration is took out on the police force which i must add are being very heavy handed and provocing us protestant people to fight so they can keep a wealthy wallet.
stephen in lisburn wrote (460 days ago):
Peter the robinson has some neck for the protests to stop. Who sent out the leaflets peter to 40000 homes. It suited you for years to bring people onto the streets even across the boarder. But now you are first minister you dont need the demos. Just a reminder the flag may never fly if it was now left to the dup. But one thing is for sure peter an election will be coming.
H.Campbell in UK wrote (460 days ago):
Having watched Mr.Wilson's display on the midday news I know there can never be peace in N.Ireland. Instead of reminding Unionism that the flag is to be flown on designated days only, as that decision was taken by purely democratic votes and as such is how democracy works. The buffoon, for he is surely that, had the audacity to blame Sinn Fein and had an amnesia attack when it came to issuing of 40000 leaflets prior to the vote. I shudder to think of what will happen in the coming days, weeks, months and years as more and more votes go against them. Will their thugs and morons inhabit the streets attacking all and sundry as has happened in recent days. Instead of trying to preach calm, not to mention reality, he has Unionism believing that even though Sinn Fein do not agree with Unionist values they can be bullied into constantly relenting on contentious votes. Dream on Mr. Wilson, dream on
lorna in limavady wrote (460 days ago):
Peter Armagh. You have stated that the Uionists are full of hatred. What about those who cannot stand to see the flag flying at the city hall? and this is not the only thing that the Republicans get stressed about.The flag never hurt anyone and I never noticed it flying there like many others. Why blame the Unionists and not the republicans who for years terrorised this country for a United Ireland. When they could not get the goal now they are bringing down all symbols of the British and raising memorial to the dead terrorists. Is this the way forward ? It takes two to fight .Until you and ones like you stop blaming the Unionists and start thinking what it is like to be on the other side of the divide we will never see peace.As far as I can see in order to make this country give equality we MUST have respect for all. The young lad out throwing stones at the police could possibly be in a band on the twelth and witness the hatred shown to them. If this is all they see no wonder trouble now.
KR in Belfast wrote (460 days ago):
all you hear now is these protests are wasting taxpayers money and that the money put into policing these protests could be used in other areas well what about the 200m that was wasted on the bloody sunday enquiry what about the millions that is was wasted on the pat finucane enquiry dont hear republican/nationalists or sinn fein/ira crying about this
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