Belfast Telegraph

London attacks: Northern Ireland leaders react - Arlene Foster says 'democracy will not be thwarted or derailed by terrorism'

Northern Ireland's political leaders have reacted to the London terror attack with DUP leader Arlene Foster saying "democracy will not be thwarted or derailed by terrorism".

Seven people have died in the terrorist incidents in London and three attackers have been shot dead by police, Scotland Yard said.

Police and emergency services were called to London Bridge shortly after 10pm on Saturday, amid reports that a white van had hit pedestrians.

Read more: London terror attacks: Seven killed in London Bridge and Borough Market incidents

The white van then continued to drive to Borough Market where three men then left the vehicle and began to stab people in pubs and restaurants.

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The three attackers involved in the attacks, who were wearing hoax explosive vests, were shot and killed by police within eight minutes of the first call being made.

Parties in Northern Ireland have suspended political campaigning as a mark of respect for the victims.

The Alliance Party paused campaigning for 24 hours, while the Ulster Unionists suspended theirs "until further notice".

Sinn Fein cancelled all election activity for Sunday apart from local canvassing.

Full campaigning is expected to resume on Monday, when the first big debate between the region's party leaders is due to be screened by Northern Ireland television broadcaster UTV.

The debate was postponed in May following the Manchester attack, as a mark of respect.

The DUP's Arlene Foster is the only party leader not due to take part in the televised debate. The party will be represented by deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Also taking part in the one-hour debate are Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, SDLP's Colum Eastwood, UUP's Robin Swann and Alliance Party's Naomi Long.

Reacting to the attack DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "This morning we pray for those who have been bereaved, the injured and the people of London who have been challenged once again by evil.

"We praise our security services, the police and our emergency services for their swift response and bravery.

"Terrorism depends upon fear and is the enemy of democracy. The United Kingdom is one of the greatest democracies and our Parliament is a beacon of hope around the world. Our democracy will not be thwarted or derailed by terrorism.

"Northern Ireland stands with the people of London."

Sinn Fein leader at Stormont Michelle O'Neill condemned the attacks.

Ms O'Neill said: "The attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market were horrific and I condemn them.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones and those who were injured, as well as with the emergency services who attended the scenes of this tragedy.

“Sinn Féin has cancelled all election activity for today apart from local canvassing as a mark of respect to those killed and injured.”

Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said we must remain strong following the attack.

Mrs Long said: “My foremost thoughts and prayers go to the loved ones of those killed in London, as well as anyone else caught up in this horrific attack

“My thanks also go to the emergency services, who proved once again they operate without fear or favour in dealing with the incident and its aftermath. As a mark of respect, Alliance is also suspending its General Election campaign for the next 24 hours.

“It is difficult to comprehend the mind-set of those who would carry out this terror against people simply out enjoying their weekend. Despite last night’s incident and the recent attack in Manchester, we must remain strong and continue to live our lives without fear or trepidation. By doing so, these terrorists can never win. 

"London was my second home for five years – it is hugely cosmopolitan, yet made up of many bustling, friendly neighbourhood communities. Despite this horror, I know it will not lose that uniquely London aspect to its character.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said "no matter what the terrorists do, they will not win".

He said: "Once again the United Kingdom has come under attack from terrorists. Our immediate thoughts and prayers must be with the families of those who have been murdered and injured in this terrible terrorist atrocity. These were the wicked actions of terrorist thugs who cowardly targeted innocent people enjoying a night out.

“It is a shocking manifestation of the hatred our enemies have for our way of life and the free and democratic society which we hold dear. No matter what the terrorists do, they will not win.

“We must be thankful for the heroic actions of the men and women of the Metropolitan Police and Emergency Services who ran towards danger to deal with the aftermath and bring this situation to a rapid end, and also the members of the public who fought the terrorists off. But for their bravery this could have been a lot worse than it already is.

“Northern Ireland will stand with the people of London. They have endured terrorism like this before but their spirit will not be broken. London and its people are resilient and will stay strong.”

Mr Swann said the UUP will resume their campaign on Monday.

"Our democratic processes and systems are a threat to those who seek their objectives through death and havoc. Their ways have only served to embolden and strengthen our peoples’ resolve to defeat terrorism no matter where or how it manifests itself", he added.

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