Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Threats to politicians have no place in democratic life

Threatening elected representatives to influence their decisions strikes at the very heart of democracy.

When it is accepted as normal it undermines the entire political process and all who work in it. It also damages our reputation as a society and is a mark of instability. If noticed abroad, it sends a signal to investors and visitors to steer clear.

That is why it is important that there is widespread condemnation of the intimidation of the Alliance Party and of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly in the wake of the recent flag rows in the City Hall.

It is in the interests of all public representatives to make it clear that, whatever differences they have on flags or other matters, they will settle them democratically.

Before the vote, leaflets were issued attacking Alliance and equating it with Sinn Fein as a party to be opposed by all unionists.

The parties involved, and the UUP and DUP have acknowledged that they were among them, should make it very clear that they oppose the intimidation of Councillor Laura McNamee, a young female politician forced to leave her home, and the forcible hanging of flags on Alliance's offices by a mob.

Like Mr Kelly's death threat, these are scenes all democrats and civic leaders, including the Lord Mayor, have a strong collective interest in removing from our political life.

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