Belfast Telegraph

'Nothing patriotic' about riots

There was nothing patriotic about Union flag-carrying rioters who attacked police enforcing a ban on an Orange Order march last Friday, the Northern Ireland Secretary has said.

Theresa Villiers said "no stone would be left unturned" in bringing those responsible for the injuries of 32 police officers and an MP before the courts.

In a statement to the Commons, Ms Villiers said: "There has been talk of attacks on British identity and culture in Northern Ireland. Well, the sort of behaviour that has been taking place in North Belfast does nothing to promote Britishness or the pro-Union cause, rather it undermines it in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK.

"In fact, it's hard to think of anything less British and less patriotic then wrapping yourself in the Union flag and going out to attack the people that are there to maintain the rule of law and protect the whole community. So now it is the responsibility of everyone, including the Orange Order, community leaders and politicians to do all we can to diffuse tensions and calm the situation.

"We need temperate language over the coming days. I'm afraid the Orange Order do need to reflect carefully on their role in encouraging mass protests on Friday in a highly volatile situation, without the careful planning, stewarding and engagement with the police that is so important in keeping people safe when big crowds gather together."

She added: "So to those on the streets over recent days, taking part in this violence, I say this: so far 60 arrests have been made, emergency courts were sitting at Laganside on Sunday, to accelerate the criminal justice process, but that is just the start.

"No stone will be left unturned in building the case needed for more arrests and more criminal convictions. Those who engage in so-called recreational rioting and attacks on police officers can expect the full force of the law.

"I am confident for some that will mean that for the next 12 July holiday that will be spent not out in the sunshine following the parades, but locked up in prison living with the consequence of the crimes they have committed."

Ms Villers said blast bomb attacks on the police on Monday night were deliberate attempts to murder officers. She was responding to shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker who also said he unequivocally condemned the "disgraceful" attacks.

Mr Coaker said: "I unequivocally condemn the violence that's taken place in Belfast over the last number of days and nights. There is not justification for it. The disgraceful attacks on the police have resulted in dozens of injuries and the very deliberate attempt to murder officers by throwing blast bombs at them last night was shameful."

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