SECRETARY OF State Theresa Villers has condemned recent violence by loyalist protestors as ”thuggish and lawless”.
However, she told MPs in the House of Commons that there was no direct evidence that the either UVF or UDA was orchestrating the violence.
She said police told her that paramilitary members were present during the trouble which has erupted over the past eight days.
Her statement is at variance with remarks made by Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr who said last Saturday that “some of the violence” was being orchestrated by “senior UVF and UDA members”.
She said that those behind the violence had brought shame on the Union flag.
Ms Villiers condemned those wreaking havoc across across areas of Belfast after the city council passed a motion limiting the number of days on which the flag can fly.
She told MPs in the Commons that 32 police officers had been hurt and 38 people charged over the violence.
Among those charged were six youths aged between 13 and 14. They have been bailed and ordered to observe a night time curfew.
One serious incident in east Belfast on Monday night is being treated by the PSNI as attempted murder.
An unmarked silver Skoda Octavia car was attacked by 15 masked men wielding iron bars before throwing a petrol bomb inside.
A female officer in the car cheated death in the attack as she guarded over the east Belfast constituency officer of Allianc Party MP Naomi Long.
The Northern Ireland Secretary said: “No-one can be in any doubt about this Government’s support for the union and its flag, but those people engaged in the kind of violence we have seen in the past few days are not defending the Union flag.
“There is nothing remotely British about what they are doing; they are dishonouring and shaming the flag of our country with their lawless and violent activities. They discredit the cause they claim to support.”
The “deplorable” outbreak of violence has seen an “appalling” death threat issued against Alliance MP Naomi Long, whose cross-community party backed the move to reduce the number of days the flag is flown from City Hall, said Mrs Villiers.
“There can be absolutely no excuse or justification for the kind of thuggishness and lawless behaviour; it is despicable, we condemn it unreservedly and it must stop immediately,” she added.
“The right of elected representatives to go about their daily business without the threat or fear of intimidation is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. These threats are nothing less than an attack on our democracy.”
She urged all of Ulster’s politicians to condemn the “disgraceful” violence and focus on other issues, including boosting the province’s economy in the run-up to Christmas.
Making a Commons statement, Mrs Villiers said: “Everybody has a responsibility to consider carefully the impact of their words and deeds on wider community relations.
“Once again, the trouble we have seen in Belfast and elsewhere underlines the urgent necessity of working towards a genuinely shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.”
She said she had been in touch with PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott for an update on the violence.
She said she had also spoken to First Minister Peter Robinson about the upsurge in attacks.
Ms Villiers said Prime Minister David Cameron was watching developments with “grave concern” and said she was keeping him up to date through his Chief of Staff.
Earlier, Matt Baggott said that protestors were using social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to organise trouble.
He said: “What we are seeing is mob rule.”
More protests are planned for Tuesday afternoon and evening in Belfast, Newtownards, Portadown and Magherafelt.
Calls by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and DUP leader Peter Robinson for the protests to be called over have so far fallen on deaf ears.
The pair are to resume talks on Tuesday to discuss a joint way forward over the Union flag row.