Last night we have once again seen the ugly side of politics in Northern Ireland as the East Belfast Alliance party office was attacked with two petrol bombs. Last week, I was there doing an interview with Chris Lyttle and normally I don’t write about what I see when I’m out and about doing interviews but after last night I thought I should convey some of my impressions about the office and the people who work in it.
What really struck me about the office was that it is primarily staffed by young people who seemed to be completely committed to the party despite the obvious dangers that working in this part of the city brings. I couldn’t help but admire the determination of those who I briefly met to actually continue on their work.
Ever since the flag protests the office has been subjected to attacks before with many of its public representatives being intimidated and threatened. However, you would not know this if you visited the office as the MLAs and staff just continue on with their work.
I mention all of this as sometimes we do forget that these offices are places of work with people who have families. There is a dark side of politics out there that we still have not been able to defeat in Northern Ireland and no group of people should ever have work under the continuous threat of attack.
The fact that the Union flag has come down over City Hall has brought no real physical harm on anybody, yet a minority of those who feel so aggrieved by it feel they can inflict harm on others. There are local government elections next May, I would suggest if you’re so politically aggrieved by a decision that you get out and exercise your vote rather than throw petrol bombs at the offices of those who have a mandate to represent the people.
Here is the Alliance party press statement
Naomi Long MP said: “This is not an attack on an individual party or office, it is an attack on democracy. There can be no justification for this and there is no place for this kind of violence on our streets.”
Chris Lyttle MLA said: “This attack will not deter us from delivering for constituents and businesses in East Belfast. Elected politicians should be able to work on behalf of their constituents without the fear of violence or intimidation.”
Judith Cochrane MLA said: “I would urge anybody with any information about this attack to contact the police. The people responsible must be apprehended and brought before the courts to face justice for their actions.”
Update-Speaking on the Sunday Politics-David Mcilveen MLA (DUP) has condemned the petrol bombs as ‘an attack on democracy.’
Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay has also condemned the attack and expressed sympathy with Naomi Long.
Cllr John Kyle of the PUP tweeted
Throwing petrol bombs at Alliance Party office does little to improve education or advance cultural equality. Register to vote instead
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs