Fresh violence breaks out in Belfast as protests continue
“We won’t be intimidated by those threats,” he said.
“Their protests are pointless and they will have absolutely no impact on decisions that we take.” He said his party would respect British tradition but told unionists that respect was “not one way”.
But his claims were met with a vociferous response from unionists.
Democratic Unionist councillor for east Belfast Robin Newton accused Mr McVeigh and Sinn Féin of “bulldozing” the flag vote through council. “It was purely a political decision, a pure political decision,” he said, rejecting the claims that unionists had not shown leadership.
But Mr Newton also called on loyalists engaged in the protests to seek a political route to voice their grievances instead.
“All sections of the unionist community should involve themselves in politics in Northern Ireland,” he said.
This morning Mr Baggott accused UVF members of organising the trouble in the east of Belfast.
“Senior members of the UVF in east Belfast as individuals have been increasingly orchestrating some of this violence — that is utterly unacceptable and is being done for their own selfish motives,” he said.
But he added: “I don’t want to put this out of perspective and I don’t want to overplay this — we are talking about east Belfast, we are talking about senior members of the UVF in east Belfast, not with the collective endorsement of the UVF per se, so don’t overplay this.”
The region’s top officer said the policing operation had already cost millions of pounds. He insisted he did have the resources at present to deal with the rioting but warned that if disturbances continued, long-term policing objectives, such as the operation to tackle dissident republicanism, could be undermined.
The chief constable said he was also concerned that so many young children were taking part in the trouble. “I would like everybody involved in these protests now to take a step back,” he said.
“My ambition is that the protests will come to an end, although you appreciate that the police are not in control of that.
“But if not, at the very least those involved in the protests should be off the road, not causing obstruction, absolutely condemning violence and ensuring that these young people are not involved.” Mr Baggott rejected claims of police brutality, insisting that officers had been “firm and assertive” with rioters.
“I have never witnessed better policing in my 36 years of service,” he said.
“I wonder how some of our European partners would have dealt with this in the last six weeks, let alone other police forces around the world.”