First Minister Peter Robinson says people have the right to peaceful protest

FIRST Minister Peter Robinson said people had the right to peaceful protest.

However, the DUP MLA said the protests of the Union flag should be suspended in the light of violence last week.

He was speaking during a debate on a motion condemning recent attacsk on the homes and offices of Alliance Party members.

Mr Robinson said the language of the motion recognised that people had he right to peaceful and democratic protests.

“People have no right to attack elected representatives just because they do not share the same views,” he said.

On Saturday, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the UVF and UDA were orchestrating some of the violence in the previous days.

“We’re now seeing senior members actively involved in orchestrating the violence,” said ACC Kerr.

However, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson, who accused police of using “heavy handed tactics” on Saturday on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, denied loyalist paramilitaries were involved.

“We do not accept this. The UVF and the Red Hand (Commando) are getting the blame for this,” said Mr Hutchinson.

“The PUP strategy is around making sure that this is unarmed resistance. People are disaffected, frustrated and angry.

“People are entitled to demonstrate but they should do it peacefully and in a dignified way.”

During the debate in the Assembly UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: “Anyone who attacks a police officer, an elected politician, or individual fails to understand the values that encapsulate the union flag.

“In doing what they did the rioters lost the very argument they were trying to promote.”

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said politicians needed to do more “than just condemn”.

Alliance leader and Justice Minister David Ford Alliance leader said the attacks directed towards the party were “horrific and frightening”.

“An immediate priority must be to find a means to accommodate different identities through a shared approach to symbols, even if that is perceived by some, as meddling with identity,” he said.

David McNarry of the UK Independence Party said the motion fell short “of expressing the full rigour of unionist anger aimed at those who combined to take down the union flag”.

The TUV leader Jim Allister strongly condemned the violence but accused Sinn Fein of using culture “as a new theatre of war.”

The motion was passed uncontested.





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