Sinn Féin Challenge Unionist Leaders Over East Belfast Statement
Responding to a joint statement from DUP Leader Peter Robinson and UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt attempting to blame the residents of the Short Strand for violence in East Belfast on July 12th, Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile said:
“Over a year on from loyalist bandsmen attacking and urinating on St. Matthew’s Church on the Newtownards Road, we have yet to hear a statement of condemnation from Peter Robinson. Two years on from an organised UVF attack on the Short Strand, we have yet to hear a statement of condemnation from Peter Robinson.
“Yet today we have a statement from Peter Robinson and his junior partner Mike Nesbitt attempting to blame the residents of a small, isolated Catholic community for attacking the Orange Parade on the Twelfth.
“I suppose we are to believe from this statement that is was residents of the Short Strand who were caught on camera attacking homes on Strand walk, nationalist bands deliberately stopping to play sectarian songs outside St Matthews Church, or that is was nationalists disguised as loyalist bandsmen that spent the evening attacking the PSNI on the Newtownards Road.
“The facts of what happened on the Twelfth are very clear. It is on camera and I would challenge the PSNI to make a clear statement on the issue.
"The reality is that there was no engagement prior to the parade between the Orange Order and the PSNI. The parade stopped for almost 45 minutes in Middlepath Street allowing tension to build up in the area, no explanation for this delay has been given by the Orange Order. The Parade was then stopped outside St. Matthew’s Church for the sole purpose of engaging in sectarian chanting and singing. On the night I acknowledged that a small number of young people in the Short Strand engaged in stone throwing across the interface. This was quickly stopped and the Short Strand remained peaceful while unionist mobs attacked the police on the Newtownards Road.
“Neither Peter Robinson nor Mike Nesbitt have set foot in the Short Strand, yet in order to play to the lowest common denominator within their community they seek to make political capital out of attacks on a small Catholic community.
“Through their selective accounts of the PSNI report on the day they have once again failed to show leadership.“It is easier to stand with the mob than do the right thing and condemn the violence and those responsible for it.” ENDS