And there’s more …
Sadly, more violence around tonight’s “peaceful protests” in East Belfast, another trip out for the PSNI water cannons, and a further statement from the constituency’s MLA and DUP leader Peter Robinson.
The tone has changed, the motives of the protest organisers are being attacked, and clear water is being put between protests and politics.
While people are entitled to lawfully and peacefully protest there can be absolutely no justification for issuing threats, acts of violence and terror or other unlawful behaviour.
The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified. Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims.
It will be enough for any unionist to know the organisers of the protest movement are not to be heeded when they hear them refer to the police as the “terrorist PSNI” and describe police officers as “Nazis”. This is language borrowed from the republican handbook.
All right-thinking unionists will want to channel their energies into political activity and to support the cause of finding political solutions to the problems that we face. In Northern Ireland the ballot box has primacy and is the only vehicle for choosing the people’s representatives.
The DUP leader also said:
Many genuine people were outraged by the City Council decision and were in the beginning prepared to express their anger by protesting but it is clear that alternative political routes are available and a continuation of the protests has no role in changing the bad decision that was taken.
The real purpose of those who claim to speak for some of the organisers of the protests is fast becoming clear. Their attacks on the DUP expose their real target. It is not about the flag, the Alliance Party, Sinn Fein or the erosion of culture – it is a straight-forward politically motivated attempt to undermine the DUP as the voice of unionism despite our attempts to oppose the removal of the Union Flag in Belfast.
Nothing like putting your hand up to name your party as the victim, and at the same time point out the strength of your position.
But now that those politically motivated spokespersons, who are to the fore in attacking the DUP and other fellow unionists, have admitted that their real goal is to replace our locally accountable devolved institution with Direct Rule we can see the total bankruptcy of their thoughts. Some of these individuals have a track record of attacking fellow unionists at every opportunity. This is the Direct Rule that unionists, who lived under it previously, always referred to as “Dublin Rule” because of the joint manner with which decisions were taken by London and Dublin under Direct Rule.
Let them explain to the people the benefit of Water Charging and higher Regional Rates which would automatically follow Direct Rule. And are they content to have Westminster impose same sex marriages and abortion on demand on our community? Such folly. Have they so quickly forgotten the decisions of direct rule in the past?
So to get unionists pulling in the same direction, the answer is to unite them in a shared
disapproval of some trusty conservative issues: gay rights and pro-choice? A sure-fire strategy for success? hatred
On Good Morning Ulster this morning, Alderman Jim Rodgers defended the flags leaflet as setting out the facts about another party, and said that he would be willing to leaflet homes again. So if you live in Belfast, watch out for a leaflet proclaiming the direct rule leanings of the protest organisers and the direct rule roulette that they might play with NI’s human rights.
There will be fewer MLAs standing by, spectating at protests after this, though they may still need to turn up to encourage members of their constituencies to stand down and behave lawfully. In a way, the anti-devolution notions of the loose group of protest organisers have incurred a greater ire of Peter Robinson and faster than the TUV’s Jim Allister has so far managed.
Speaking of Jim Allister, the TUV leader’s New Year Message [Ed - Mick should release one of those, everyone's at it!], he failed to address the less peaceful elements of the protest, simply saying:
Part of the challenge in 2013 is to move peaceful flag protest into concerted and informed political action which addresses the reasons why Sinn Fein has been enabled to suppress our culture. Ceasing to vote for their facilitators is an obvious and necessary step, as is moving to recognise that the basic democratic deficits of the anti-unionist Belfast Agreement must be addressed – namely, the denials of the right to vote a party out of government and the right to even have an Opposition, which are the consequences of the evil of mandatory coalition. These wrongs must be righted if Stormont is ever to have any credibility with the people.
Today, Alliance and the SDLP issued statements about the East Belfast violence. Nothing flag-related to report from the UUP, nor from Sinn Fein (which today praised the RUAS Maze/Long Kesh planning approval without using the word ‘Royal’, and didn’t explicity mention flags in Martin McGuinness’ New Year message).