Gilmore condemns North violence
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore tonight called for an immediate end to violence and intimidation in Northern Ireland.
He called described the recent wave of violence as “an attack on democracy itself that has no place in the politics of this island”.
Earlier today he spoke with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, about the situation on the ground. The scenes “remind us of the need for steady support for the peace process,” Mr Gilmore said.
“Now is the moment for responsible political leadership and we must all be conscious that our interventions should seek to calm rather than inflame tensions,” he said.
The UK government has also condemned the violence. Loyalist rioters who wreaked chaos in Belfast over a dispute on flying the British flag have only brought dishonour and shame to their cause, it said.
Ms Villiers told the Commons there was nothing British about the “thuggish, lawless and despicable” behaviour that also saw a murder bid on a police woman and a death threat issued to East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long.
Tonight the Democratic Unionist Party said two of its senior elected representativeshave also been subject to death threats.
Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley, was informed of the danger to him and his family by police today.
A DUP minister at Stormont, Edwin Poots, has also been threatened.
Mr Donaldson said: “Police this morning received a serious threat to the effect that myself, my wife and children and my colleague Edwin Poots, his wife and children would be shot and the police are treating this threat very seriously.”
Disorder has broken out at loyalist protests organised against last week‘s vote by Belfast City Council to reduce the number of days the Union flag flies over City Hall.
Thirty two police officers have been hurt and almost 40 people have been arrested in eight days of violence.
“No-one can be in any doubt about this Government’s support for the union and its flag, but those people engaged in the kind of violence we have seen in the past few days are not defending the union flag,” said Mrs Villiers.
“There is nothing remotely British about what they are doing; they are dishonouring and shaming the flag of our country with their lawless and violent activities.
Despite calls from Westminster and across the political divide in Northern Ireland for an end to the demonstrations, fresh pickets were held in the south and north of the city tonight.
Last night a masked loyalist gang attacked an unmarked police patrol car that was guarding Mrs Long‘s office on the Newtownards Road and threw a petrol bomb into the vehicle while a policewoman was inside.
The officer escaped uninjured in an incident police are treating as attempted murder.
Mrs Long said the protests were not loyalism but fascism. “This has taken on the dynamics of a pogrom against the Alliance party,” she said.
A scheduled Stormont meeting today where the DUP was set to propose a review that could potentially lead to flying the Union flag more often at the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly was abandoned after Alliance, Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party refused to attend.
The parties claimed the DUP move, which was supported by the Ulster Unionists, would only have ramped up tensions even more.
But the DUP reacted angrily to the no-show, claiming the other parties were not sending out the message that democratic and political methods worked.
Additional reporting PA