Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Robinson slams anti-police violence

Loyalist protesters sit on top of an armoured police vehicle in North Belfast as trouble flared for the third night (AP)
Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr holds a police officer's helmet
Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr holds a police officer's helmet
Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr displays a police officer's shield which was struck by a ceremonial sword in Belfast

People who attack police with ceremonial swords should be in prison, Northern Ireland's First Minister has said.

Peter Robinson told a special sitting of the Stormont Assembly there was no excuse for the violence which has marred parts of Northern Ireland over the past four nights.

The Democratic Unionist leader told MLAs: "The one message that this community will be waiting to hear from this Assembly is condemnation of violence, a requirement for people to stand by the rule of law. I don't think that anybody who takes a ceremonial sword to the head of a police officer can honestly find anywhere more suitable to be than in prison. There is no excuse for anybody carrying out what was an attempt to murder or seriously injure a police officer."

The Assembly has been recalled to debate a DUP motion which said efforts to build a shared future had been harmed by the decision to ban Protestant Orangemen from marching on a contested stretch of road in north Belfast on July 12.

Mr Robinson said the Parades Commission - the adjudicating body set up in 1998 to rule on contentious marches - had got it wrong. He added: "The Parades Commission took their decision for political reasons.

"They have an agenda and that agenda is that first of all they want the Orange Institution to engage with them. They want the Orange Institution to engage with local residents and they will take their decisions to further their agenda as opposed to what is right or wrong in a particular set of circumstances of any parade. I think the Parades Commission got it completely wrong. I don't believe that the Parades Commission have the respect or credibility in the community to continue in being."

The DUP motion also calls for respect for the law and for "tolerance to be shown for everyone's cultural identity".

Mr Robinson encouraged everyone to engage with Dr Richard Haass, who will arrive in Northern Ireland this week to chair the all-party working group set up to agree an alternative to the Parades Commission.

Outside Parliament Buildings up to 100 people gathered for a protest organised by the Progressive Unionist Party. PUP east Belfast representative Jonny Harvey said he feared the debate would be a talking shop. "The violence is completely unjustifiable. Those people who are intent on violence by hijacking peaceful protests for their own means. As a result, our genuine reasons and needs are being ignored because of that violence."

Seventy-one police officers have been injured and more than 60 people were arrested during four consecutive nights of violence. Six blast bombs were thrown at officers in east Belfast who were also pelted with a barrage of petrol bombs, bricks, heavy masonry and other missiles. Trouble also flared in other areas of Belfast. Loyalists and republicans were involved in the disorder.

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