Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Alliance councillor leaves her home after threats…

Wed 5 December 2012, 10:48am

Speaking of elephants, back in the baseland of East Belfast UVF, an Alliance councillor is too fearful to return home:

McNamee said she was too frightened to return to her house in the Sydenham area near Belfast city airport. The Police Service of Northern Ireland had warned her she and other councillors from the centrist non-sectarian Allliance party were under threat.

The loyalists opposed to any change in the flag policy are targeting prominent Alliance members because the party holds the balance of power on the council. It was their compromise motion – that the union flag would be still be flown on top of city hall on days such as the Queen’s birthday – that led to the union flag no longer being a permanent fixture on the council building.

“The police have told me not to go home until further notice. It is a horrible feeling but as a public representative you expect a backlash but only in terms of politics, not physical threats. They [the police] had us on a high alert from the weekend,” McNamee said.

“I don’t want to be indimiated but I am not stupid because I live on my own and if they are determined enough who knows what they would do? I really don’t know when and if I can go back to my house as itt’s important to feel safe in your own home,” she said.”

And for the record, here’s the PUP’s initial submission to the Belfast City Council’s consultation:

The Progressive Unionist Party’s view of the flag’s issue cannot be divorced from their vision for the future based upon the parameters of the GFA. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom as per the will of the people.

It is the view of the Progressive Unionist Party that while this needs to be respected there is no requirement that all day every day this glaring fact is appreciated. However the flag of a nation is a constitutional symbol and is also internationally recognised, a flag identifies its people and territory.

With these facts in mind, it is our opinion that the Union Flag should fly on a permanent basis outside Belfast City Hall. If this is not possible, our position is that the Union Flag should fly outside Belfast City Hall, Duncrue Complex and the Ulster Hall on the 15 ‘flag days’ as in the rest of the UK and those 4 days exclusive to Northern Ireland (New Year’s Day, Easter Day, 12 July and Christmas Day).

Hmmm…

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Comments (47)

  1. BarneyT (profile) says:

    “……4 days exclusive to Northern Ireland (New Year’s Day, Easter Day, 12 July and Christmas Day)”…..whilst I can rationalise flying the Flag on the Queens birthday, remembrance day and July 12th even, whats the craic with New years day, Christmas and Easter?

    The latter two are Christian festivals, so I dont see the rconnection….or perhaps the flying of the Union Flag at Easter is in reaction to the commemoration of the Easter Rising and the flying of the tricolour?

    Anyhow, back to the matter in hand.

    Surely this is where the PSNI should step in, rather than merely advise that McNamee abandon her home. The police are clearly aware of the threath to her therefore they have an opportunity to apprehend or deter the assailants and afford the councillor sufficient protection to retain her right to all aspects of life.

    They can use blatant or covert means to offer protection. They also have the option to use other forms of force in the event that McNamee life is directly threathened. I believe that has been acceptable in the past. Zero tolerance has to be shown here and the PSNI has to take the lead.

    I know there has been game playing with this flag episode, however a decision has been made and it should only be reversed through democratic means and peaceful protest.

    We are at risk of bowing to mob rule…..again….and I didnt mention the covanteers once!

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  2. BarneyT (profile) says:

    flippin typos

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  3. tacapall (profile) says:

    “The Police Service of Northern Ireland had warned her she and other councillors from the centrist non-sectarian Allliance party were under threat.”

    It would be astonishing if the PSNI did not have their own sources that would verify whether these threats should be considered serious and who is issuing them. If loyalist paramilitaries are involved then the PSNI should say which organisation is responsible then the executive could withhold funding to their “community projects, political parties” until the threat is lifted.

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  4. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Quite so tac. But that might make things too inconveniently political…

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  5. Nevin (profile) says:

    “it’s important to feel safe in your own home”

    You really have to feel for Laura McNamee and others who find themselves in the no-man’s land of the 1998 Agreement.

    I listened to a very balanced response this morning from the East Belfast MP Naomi Long on BBC NI GMU. She pointed out that her party has come under attack in recent times from extremists on both sides of the political divide but the threat to individuals takes it to a much more dangerous level. I suggest her approach is a much better one than the short-termist one of narrowing the focus to a particular event; perhaps her male colleagues could take note.

    The Unionist parties were wrong to target APNI with their yellow leaflet campaign; had the cross-community APNI abstained in the BCC vote the Union flag would have been removed from City Hall and extreme Unionist violence could have been much much worse.

    The Nationalist parties were wrong to promote the no-flag line knowing as they would have done the extreme Unionist reaction.

    Is it too much to ask the Unionist and the Nationalist parties to show a little bit of dog-wit, to work alongside APNI to put the city and its environs first? Let’s put people and place before party. Some more shared symbols and goals are surely the way to go.

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  6. GavBelfast (profile) says:

    There is never any excuse or justification for threats like this.

    Even if it is an ‘empty’ threat, the fear and distress caused is no different, and the whole thing is nothing short of disgraceful.

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  7. tacapall (profile) says:

    Indeed Mick, it suits the DUP for the Alliance party to be intimidated out of East Belfast and I haven’t heard the DUP demanding the threats be lifted. I couldn’t help noticing those protestors outside the Alliance party offices where mostly children and young teenagers no doubt being educated and indoctrinated by older paramilitary types.

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  8. ayeYerMa (profile) says:

    “The centrist non-sectarian Alliance Party”.

    I suppose I never would have expected much objective journalism from The Guardian anyway.

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  9. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    To be fair to Robo he was out of the traps pretty quickly that night and has been regularly since. To call for it to stop might be mischievously interpreted as suggesting he surreptitiously approved of it in the first place.

    What’s happened with the flag issue is that the rather fickle PUP vote has been flipped from Alliance to DUP in east. Michael Copeland will be hoping he gets a turn out of it too, but he will have to wait to see what he gets from three transfers and take his chances against the two Alliance party folk.

    In the meantime, the DUP will move further up into the leafy streets of Upper Belmont previously abandoned by the UUs when they dropped Ringland from the ticket after 2010.

    Bad for society and a sign that “they haven’t gone away you know…” But we might also remember this series of events were not triggered by the DUP alone.

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  10. SK (profile) says:

    “But we might also remember this series of events were not triggered by the DUP alone.”

    ______

    True that.

    Speaking of which, where has Mike Nesbitt been during all of this? The man has a tendency to issue press releases like they’re going out of fashion (they are in his parties case), and yet there’s been nothing from him about the violence that his party helped instigate.

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  11. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    innocent question, would you honestly say this plays well for the DUP ….anywhere?

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  12. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Flip it. Force SF to defend the tricolour? Mana from heaven. Though more in east than south.

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  13. Nevin (profile) says:

    “where has Mike Nesbitt been during all of this? The man has a tendency to issue press releases like they’re going out of fashion”

    SK, a good place to look would be the party website – and here is a direct link to the relevant PR ;)

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  14. SK (profile) says:

    Thank you Nevin, I went to the main page and didn’t spot the press release above.

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  15. Nevin (profile) says:

    Thanks appreciated, SK. I encourage the use of primary sources, as distinct from media selections, so I’m accustomed to finding my way around party websites. Linkage is not endorsement, just accommodating Slugger friends and facilitating conversation.

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  16. DC (profile) says:

    innocent question, would you honestly say this plays well for the DUP ….anywhere?

    It’s an interesting question, would hope to see a bit more analysis rather than reportage.

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  17. sherdy (profile) says:

    Mick, are you using Jesuitical thinking in trying to be fair to Robo?
    Follow that to its logical conclusion and no-one would ever be able to condemn or call a halt to any violence lest it be thought they had been instigators in same.

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  18. Red Lion (profile) says:

    When the elections come round again, in East Belfast I don’t think all this will make a difference.

    DUP played to a core in East Belfast, but its my belief they are not in step with the unionist people. True, some liberalizing unionist might be polarized back to the DUP over the flag, but a substantial portion will feel for McNamee, see through the DUP bluster, and continue their liberalizing journey toward the centre ground. That’s East Belfast, mind.

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  19. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Sherdy, just sayin like…

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  20. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Gutless cowards and thugs is what these people are . Why did’nt they threaten SF or the SDLP ? Far easier to threaten the smaller AP and women :(

    I suppose the AP is an easier target for these thickos :(

    The PSNI need to round these f***ers up -have them jailed and throw away the key !

    Some people are only going to learn ‘democracy’ the hard way or never :(

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  21. I dont know if it will have any effect on DUP in East Belfast or beyond. It was a specific event and over the next few weeks, the balance of probability is that it will fade from memory.
    There will be other events between now and the next elections and I dont see “flegs” and the aftermath as a long term thing.
    I
    The treatment of Laura McNamee is terrible….I thought she was quite good in the City Hall debate…..and sadly this has not been the first time that local politicians get this kinda thing. All parties have suffered and for all the negativity surrounding politicians they deserve a bit of credit and support.

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  22. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    In east its been a campaign, not just an event FJH.

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  23. IJP (profile) says:

    Mick

    Let’s be very clear about this: Mike Nesbitt’s only contribution to the debate – after a riot in which 15 public servants were injured – was to justify the violence on the grounds that minority Unionists hadn’t got what they wanted; and then to make a daft political point essentially arguing that the boundaries should be gerrymandered to suit Unionists.

    We then have two former Leaders trying to score cheap political points at the expense of the Alliance Party, after an Alliance Party Councillor was intimidated from her home.

    On top of that, <i

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  24. IJP (profile) says:

    On top of that, not a single Ulster Unionist elected rep has seen fit to condemn the fact that Alliance Party reps have been forced from their homes and workplaces.

    This, folks, is Mike Nesbitt’s “moderate” UUP.

    Shameful, utterly shameful.

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  25. IJP (profile) says:

    Since those last comments, we find the offices of a political party burned out.

    This is not the time for recriminations, but this is plainly a catastrophic failure of Unionist leadership.

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  26. [...] Alliance councillor leaves her home after threats… (sluggerotoole.com) [...]

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  27. Submariner (profile) says:

    IJP why are you surprised?. We are now fourteen years down the line from the GFA .Remember all the talk of parity of esteem for both communities. Unionism cannot and will not shake off its sectarian hatred. During the summer we had Govt. ministers encouraging people to break the law and backing the Terrorist supporting bands actions at ST Patrick’s. Now we have a nasty campaign to target the Alliance party for taking the middle ground in the flag debate which has been put to a democratic vote in Belfast Council and now we once again see Unionisms reaction to democracy when it dosent go their. And of course the Police are left in the middle again to be attacked by Flag waving scum.

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  28. Nevin (profile) says:

    IJP, can I suggest you take a leaf out of Naomi Long’s book? APNI is currently caught in no-man’s land and some of the comments from APNI males are more likely to inflame than to help. I thought Naomi gave a very measured response on BBC NI GMU today.

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  29. Submariner (profile) says:

    Nevin, what do you suggest the APNI males do just ignore it?. They have every right to speak out perhaps you should be directing your comments at the party that brought these scum-bags out on to the streets to perform their own unionist version of kristallnacht

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  30. Neil (profile) says:

    APNI is currently caught in no-man’s land

    Dunno. If you accept that the legendary leaflet encouraged people to complain to an MP and non member of Belfast City Council, and further that said MP won 5 pound Pete’s seat, one might draw the conclusion that the whole thing is a cynical attempt to take that seat back. The problem here is that people aren’t (in the main) that stupid that they can’t work that out. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Alliance do quite well politically.

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  31. Nevin (profile) says:

    Submariner, I’ve already made my Naomi suggestion.

    Neil, the SF/SDLP stance was for no flag; the DUP/UUP one was for the status quo. Had APNI abstained there would have been no flag; had it voted for the status quo it would have breached its flags policy.

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  32. simtrib (profile) says:

    What does this threat amount to though?

    I suspect that Mr Zuckerberg is more lax in his moderation than Mr Fealty.

    Has anybody actually sent a letter, email or fax to Ms McNamee?

    I’m only asking the question.

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  33. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    simtrib, the police have visited several Alliance representatives and informed them they were aware of credible threats and that for their own safety they were advised to leave their homes.

    The police never specify what the nature of these threats are but I assume we are talking about a mix of monitoring facebook and their various informers within the loyalist groupings behind all this.

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  34. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    And there has been an attack on the house of two Alliance party councillors… CS has the details… So yes, the threat is and was real to answer your question.

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  35. iluvni (profile) says:

    If there’s a credible threat, the police should be stationed outside these homes protecting them and their occupants.
    The politicians shouldnt have to flee.

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  36. Sp12 (profile) says:

    Well, if you look at the Boycot The Alliance Party facebook page some wag is publishing the contact details of Alliance councillors.

    By the looks of it, the mobs will be out in force all weekend, comments calling for a repetition of the Carrick trouble anywhere there’s an Alliance constituency office.

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  37. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    iluvni, I imagine the police are now probably going to have to do this for certain Alliance reps, but they can’t sit outside all these homes every day.

    I am hearing from Alliance people talking of trouble kicking off in Bangor.

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  38. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    The one source of amusement I’m getting, on this tragic evening, is how stupid these people are.

    They’re attacking the party whose leader runs the country’s justice system. If you’re going to pick a minister to piss off, that seems like the wrong one, especially given that the Justice Minister controls some of the budgets which get used for “community” purposes.

    Secondly, they’re publishing all these threats in public using their real names. Facebook routinely hand over details concerning crimes being committed to the authorities. In the case of Laura McNamee, the individual said he knew where she lived – in other words he admitted to “a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” which is an offence under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

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  39. iluvni (profile) says:

    I’ve just had a look at the page Sp12 refers to. I think on second thoughts, the Alliance reps ought to get away instead of relying on the PSNI.

    What self-respecting police force on the planet would tolerate their vehicles to be treated in such a way and their officers humiliated? Its truly pathetic.
    http://sphotos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/559821_4494841323032_282533386_n.jpg

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  40. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Stephen Farry’s office has been petrol bombed, I understand.

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  41. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    iluvni,

    The PSNI do not have a mandate to be tough on paramilitaries or riots, because if they come on heavy handed someone will condemn them.

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  42. simtrib (profile) says:

    And there has been an attack on the house of two Alliance party councillors… CS has the details… So yes, the threat is and was real to answer your question.

    Fair enough.

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  43. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    simtrib, I do not think there was any malicious intent in your question.

    Another detail I should add here is that, as everyone knows, the vote to change the flag policy was taken by the SDLP, SF and the Alliance Party. Yet, Alliance offices are the only ones under attack.

    This is because the attackers and protesters are taking their lead on where to focus their attacks and protests from the politicians who, for political purposes, sought to focus the blame for this decision on Alliance. The change would not have come up had nationalists councillors not chosen to make it an issue.

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  44. simtrib (profile) says:

    @Comrade Stalin

    I actually don’t care so much about the flag issue. I can live with designated days. I do care about elected politicians being intimidated. I do also however care about the “Belfast is now majority nationalist” issue, which is absolute nonsense. It really isn’t.

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  45. BarneyT (profile) says:

    I suppose you could take the view that we should have let matters lie…or some might say we should restore the flag now and restore the status quo…but that would only be giving into the threaths and bully boys.

    The DUP have stoked this one and they need to be held to account so lets hope the recalled Assembly will act or provide a platform to induce some naval gazing on the part of the DUP

    I am not one for provoking trouble, however maybe this flag issue might serve to lance this boil.

    It may have been acceptable to threaten force in 1912 (and for the sake of argument lets say there was just cause for unionism to then feel threatened), however 2012 is different.

    We have powersharing and those that were happy to get stuck in are now in the political mix, advocating law and order and the use of the PSNI. That is a massive step forward in anyones language.

    The PSNI with this support now need to step up to the mark without fear of being accused of political policing. Those that firebomb, destroy homes and other premises, threathen online or directly should be dealt with as criminals and should be targetted based on that alone.

    Granted the police cannot sit outside every Alliance home, but they can respond more proactively in some cases.

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  46. streetlegal (profile) says:

    The DUP statements on this issue remind me very much of the remarks that Ian Paisley Senior made about the RUC when he told them not to come crying to him when their homes are attacked. The loyalist mob can serve as a useful tool to serve the DUP electoral strategy.

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  47. Sp12 (profile) says:

    Seems the DUP want to review the flying of flegs at Stormont now. Keeping the pressure on the Alliance by potentially having them vote again on the matter.

    With any luck the whole strategy will backfire come the next elections.

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