The Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has appealed for a halt to violence and called on people to follow the political path.
Mr Nesbitt said, “I unreservedly condemn all acts of violence and intimidation against police officers, elected representatives, other members of society, homes and property. There is neither excuse nor justification for resorting to violence. The only way forward is through democracy.’
“I would appeal to everyone to engage in the political process. I attended a very useful and positive meeting of community representatives in east Belfast this afternoon, and one of the clear messages that I took away is that the Unionist Forum has the potential to offer a credible alternative to street protests, but it is up to the political leaders of unionism to make the case, and prove it is a body that can both listen and deliver, and that means embracing all views within the broad unionist family.’
“Unionism needs a strategy for moving forward and in the first instance, that can only be arrived at by engagement between all members of the Unionist community. Violence distracts from the real source of many of the problems, which are being created by parties such as Sinn Fein, who are cynically exploiting the situation to create further anger and division in the community. Sinn Fein is a party which claims to want reconciliation, but only on its terms, which include the acceptance of a future within a United Ireland, and the consequent erosion of Britishness.’
“We have also seen nationalist support for our stance in opposing Sinn Fein`s manoeuvrings, such as the naming of the Newry Play Park after an IRA terrorist. SDLP Councillor Claire Hanna came out very clearly and condemned the decision by Newry Council in direct contrast to other SDLP council members. Only today, I heard that Claire`s home has been attacked. I join with others in condemning the actions of cowards in attacking the Hanna family home. It is another pointless act of violence, against a democrat I had the pleasure in standing against during the 2010 General Election in Strangford.’
“Some republicans are still fully engaged in the use of violence demonstrated by the brutal murders and attempted murders they have carried out in recent months and years. Thankfully many of their criminal enterprises have been foiled by the excellent work of the PSNI and security services.’
“I am also concerned by reports that republicans have been seen to encourage disorder on the streets of east Belfast in recent days, and call on Sinn Fein to prove its commitment to a truly Shared Future by using its substantial influence to ensure those who continue to wish to exercise their democratic right to lawful, peaceful protest can do so in an atmosphere that is calm and free from intimidation, while we work on bringing forward the strategic alternative of the Unionist Forum.”