Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said that following another night of riots and trouble after the so-called peaceful protest in Belfast today, that political unionism must exert itself, show leadership and work to end this situation.
Speaking today Mr Kelly said:
“Political unionism has failed. It has sent muted words and mixed messages which has seen loyalism come on to the streets and a continuation of road blocks, riots and intimidation for nearly a week now.
“Within the space of this week we have seen attacks on Belfast City Hall and Alliance party members homes and offices, death threats against elected representatives and many protests turning violent.
“Only last night 600 people, including many children were trapped inside Newtonabbey council as loyalist burnt cars and rioted with clear paramilitary involvement.
“The scenario is nothing new. We have seen the orchestration between political unionism and violent loyalism many times before when they did not get their way.
“We saw it in 1969, The Ulster Workers Council strike, the Anglo Irish Agreement and Drumcree to name a few occasions.
“But times have changed. Belfast is a shared city. It needs to represent all sections of the community that live in it and not have one identity stamped over all others. Unionism needs to accept the need for, and the reality of, equality.
“Unionist politicians calling for the protests to be suspended and not called off all together while pressing for an increase of flag flying days at Stormont, set alongside the burning of the Irish tricolour by masked men oustise the City Hall, is not showing leadership and will not de-escalate the situation.
“We need to see much more from unionist political leaders at all levels of representation across the north. They must exert themselves by standing firmly against the ongoing situation and taking real and meaningful steps to end the violence and intimidation on our streets.”