A LOYALIST gang have attacked the home of a married Alliance councillor couple in Bangor, County Down.
Thugs hurled a paint bomb at Michael and Christine Bower’s home in the latest escalation of loyalist intimidation against party members and offices.
The force of the attack smashed a front window close to where their daughter normally plays.
An Alliance Party office in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, where MLA Stewart Dickson works for his local constituents, was gutted by loyalists.
Four police officers were injured in the orchestrated disturbance by local loyalist paramilitaries.
The attack on Mr Dickson’s office followed a protest by loyalists over the flying of the union flag.
And there was also an attempt to torch the North Down office of Alliance Minister Stephen Farry.
There was also reports of trouble in Lurgan and in Newtownards.
No one was injured in the Bangor attack although the incident left the couple in shock.
North Down councillor Michael Bower was sitting in his living room at around 11pm on Wednesday night when his home life was shattered.
Loyalists hurled a paint bomb at the double-glazed window of the front living room.
“My daughter who is 17 months old had just gone to bed when I heard an explosion against the window,” he said.
“I guessed it was some sort of attack on our family home. I checked that my wife and daughter were okay. The paint bomb hit the corner of the room where my daughter usually plays.
“There is damage to the window, but it could so easily have been so much worse. If events had been different, a young life could have been lost.
“I would plead with people to calm down and to stop attacking.”
North Down MLA Stephen Farry said there was also an attempted arson attack on his constituency office in Bangor’s Abbey Street.
“Petrol or some other accelerant was poured over my shutters by a number of people,” he said.
“Fortunately, they were interrupted by a passing police patrol and fled the scene. I am grateful to both the police and the fire and rescue service for their assistance.”
The Bangor attacks came after a loyalist mob torched the Alliance Party office in Carrickfergus on Wednesday evening and a number of police officers left injured in the latest wave of trouble across Northern Ireland.
Up to 1,600 loyalists gathered in the Co Antrim town to protest over the lowering of the Union Jack flag at Belfast City Hall.
They aimed their anger at the Alliance Party office after its compromise motion to fly the Union flag on only designated days was passed by 29 votes to 21 by Belfast City Council.
Unconfirmed reports said that police have discharged a number of baton rounds to keep the situation under control.
Sources in the town said that one point the loyalist mob tried to overturn a PSNI landrover.
Police officers have been injured trying to quell the trouble. The situation is now said to be under control.
East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has condemned the attack on his party office.
“This is an outright attack on Democracy and cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.
“The DUP and UUP cannot expect to whip up Unionist tensions and encourage people to protest, then wipe hands of involvement.”
DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson urged those behind the violence to take a “step back”.
He added that those behind the attack on the Alliance Party office “do a disservice to the flag they claim to defend”.
However, Sinn Fein MLA tweeted: “So who’s gonna be the first to claim that attack on Alliance was SPONTANEOUS anger!
“Orchestrated intimidation by political unionism.”
There were calls on Wednesday night for an urgent recall of the Assembly to discuss the loyalist campaign against the non-sectarian Alliance Party.
And there were also calls for a protest rally in Belfast city centre over the removal of the Union flag from the City Hall also to be cancelled for fear of a further escalation of the trouble.
The smoke from the attack on the party office could could be smelt for up to two miles away.
The PSNI said said that between 1,500-1,600 people had gathered at the Irish Gate roundabout earlier on Wednesday.
Trouble broke out and missiles, bottles and masonry were thrown at police.
Detectives said a number of officers had been injured and they had received a report of a fire at a building at West Street.
Firefighters are at the scene. The extent of damage to the Alliance Party office at West Street in the County Antrim town is unclear.
Police are talking to community representatives in an effort to restore calm.
Earlier on Wednesday, East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long has condemned loyalists behind a threat to a party colleague.
And she said her party would not be intimidated by “mob rule” when it came to taking tough political decisons.
“That’s something that I will not countenance because I believe fundamentally in the rule of law,” she said.
“I believe in democracy and I believe that it has to stand, so we will not budge because of intimidation or threat or terror.
“I think if we get to the point that we don’t take decisions that we believe are right, simply because of the threat of violence and intimidation, then we no longer have a democracy – what we have is mob rule.”
On Tuesday Belfast councillor Laura McNamee moved out of her home over a UVF internet threat linked to a Union Jack flag vote.
Alliance councillor Laura McNamee said a threat was posted to her Facebook page on Saturday and she was advised by police not to return home.
She said there were police patrols at the homes of some Alliance colleagues over fears a loyalist campaign is about to escalate.
Cllr McNamee said she was too frightened to return to her house in the Sydenham area of east Belfat.
The PSNI had warned her she and other councillors from the Allliance party they 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.
Said Cllr McNamee: “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 police had us on a high alert from the weekend.
“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.
- The Alliance representative, who was elected to council two years ago, said she has been told east Belfast UVF members were orchestrating the violence and the intimidation.
She confirmed that it was “highly unlikey” she could return to her home for the foreseeable future and would spend Christmas elsewhere.
McNamee added: “In the days before the riot at City Hall there has been a Facebook campaign and one man messaged me to say that they were going to hold a protest outside my address in Syndenham.
“My address is not public but the fact that they referenced Sydenham means they have my address. Certainly it made these threats very personal.”
On Monday, the council backed an Alliance motion to change its policy of flying the flag all year round.
Minutes after the vote inside Belfast City Hall, a loyalist protest outside the building erupted into violence.
Eighteen people, including 15 PSNI officers, were injured in the rioting and some protesters broke through police lines and tried to storm into the hall.
Ahead of the vote, some of the demonstrators expressed anger at the Alliance Party, for proposing a motion that changed a century-old tradition of flying the Union flag outside Belfast City Hall every day of the year.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP had proposed removing the flag altogether, but they both backed Alliance’s compromise motion to fly the flag on designated days.
The vote was passed by 29 to 21.
Earlier on Tuesday, about 100 loyalists held a protest outside an Alliance party office in east Belfast.
The office on the Upper Newtownards Road is the base of East Belfast MP Naomi Long.
The building was closed and police were present for the duration of the protest.