Northern Irish leader warns Union flag rioters are ‘the enemies of democracy’
Rioters are the enemies of democracy, Northern Ireland’s first minister has warned.
Peter Robinson also claimed the Union flag dispute was being exploited by elements seeking to destroy the peace process.
The DUP leader said: “This issue will never be solved on the streets but only through democratic means. You do not respect a Union flag if you are using it as a weapon to charge against someone. You are not showing respect for the Union flag if you need to wear a mask when carrying it.
“For many, the issue of the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Council is now a cynical cover for the real political agenda which is to destroy the political process.”
The debate at Stormont comes after another weekend of disturbances in different parts of Northern Ireland. Civil unrest has blighted parts of the country for the past six weeks since Belfast City Council voted to restrict the number of days it flies the Union flag over City Hall.
On Saturday, 29 police officers were injured when trouble erupted between loyalists and nationalists in east Belfast. There was also violence in Co Antrim on Friday night.
Mr Robinson urged those engaged in the violence to call a halt. He said: “Those who are engaged in violence on the streets are not friends of unionism, they are the enemies of democracy.”
Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said he believed a solution to the current impasse could be found.
However, he said the disorder associated with the Union flag dispute was challenging political institutions.
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