Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Bitter bust-up in Assembly over Sinn Fein racist attack claims

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

Martin McGuinness has come under fire in the Assembly after challenging unionist leaders to spell out who is behind recent racist and sectarian attacks.

The deputy First Minister was barracked as he reiterated his belief the attacks are being "orchestrated" by the UVF and involve "elements" of the Orange Order.

Mr McGuinness asked if he was the only one willing to stand up and tell the public the facts – since his previous assertions were not challenged in the chamber.

But yesterday DUP MLAs and TUV leader Jim Allister shouted: "shame on you".

Mr McGuinness was staring straight at First Minister Peter Robinson, who like DUP Junior Minister Jonathan Bell, sat grim-faced as Speaker William Hay moved to restore order. At times DUP and Sinn Fein members were staring daggers at each other.

It appears that tensions from last week, when Mr McGuinness pointedly accused Mr Robinson of "cowardice of the worst kind" before they jointly launched the Giro D'Italia event, have not dissipated.

Mr McGuinness said not one unionist had challenged "my assertion that the UVF and the Orange Order are responsible".

He added: "That is what we have been dealing with.

"Until such times as people are prepared to do what I do in the community that I represent – standing against even threats to my life from so-called dissident republicans – and unless we get to a point at which that is done by all of us, we are not moving forward."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said: "Avoiding the question."

TUV leader Mr Allister shouted: "How many people did you kill?" as Mr Hay shouted "Order" and tried to calm proceedings.

Responding to Alliance's Chris Lyttle, who asked whether he and Mr Robinson were aware of attempts to revive the Unite Against Hate campaign, Mr McGuinness said: "This requires a co-ordinated approach and all of us to speak with one voice.

"Unfortunately, we have not been speaking with one voice in recent times. I would like to see people rising to the occasion and recognising that the people of east Belfast are overwhelmingly good and decent people but that they are effectively being dictated to by a gang of hoods and criminals.

"Those people need to be exposed in the same way that I stand against those in my community who try to plunge us back to the past through their violent activities. That is the responsibility of politicians."

The deputy First Minister also met with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott yesterday regarding the series of racist attacks in east and north Belfast.

In the Assembly, Mr McGuinness referred to the failed attempt to reach agreement on contentious issues such as flags, parading and dealing with Troubles' legacy issues.

He said he is not in favour of the senior American diplomat Dr Richard Haass and his deputy Professor Meghan O'Sullivan having to return to Northern Ireland for further talks.

They spent several weeks here late last year.

He said he'd prefer all the political parties to get into a room and negotiate their way through the issues of parading, flags and dealing with the legacy of the past.

He said that failing that, he would call on both the British and Irish governments to become more involved in an attempt to seek a resolution.

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