East Belfast Alliance Assembly Member, Cllr Naomi Long MLA, has expressed her anger and disgust at continuing violence across Belfast, following the disputed Whiterock parade on Saturday, during which shots, petrol bombs and blast bombs injured dozens of police and several civilians, and has hit out at the UUP leader, Sir Reg Empey for his comments about police heavy-handedness.
Naomi Long said, “I am, like all right-thinking people, utterly appalled and disgusted by the orchestrated and intensive violence that we have seen on the streets of Belfast this weekend. There can be no excuse or justification for this kind of wanton violence and criminal damage and those politicians and so-called community leaders who have tried to shift the blame away from the rioters, or offer excuses on their behalf, ought to hang their heads in shame.
“Attempts to shift blame for this orgy of violence simply will not wash. The Orange Order encouraged people to come onto the streets and protest, in the full knowledge of the chaos and mayhem which would ensue. They warned in TV interviews and in statements of “consequences” -they cannot now plead ignorance. They claim to have taken action to demand their rights; they cannot now shirk responsibility for what has taken place. They talk of civil and religious liberty, yet roads are blocked, property is destroyed and lives are put at risk and in Harryville today, people were too afraid to worship in their own church, such is scale of the sectarian hatred and tension in our community.
“The Police and Army have come under extraordinary pressure and have risked their lives, showing great courage, to protect the community. They have been subjected to gun fire, blast and petrol bombs, and over 30 officers
have sustained injuries, simply in the course of upholding law and order and doing their duty to this society. For anyone to suggest they have in any shape or form contributed to the problem is grossly offensive and deeply shameful.
“All week we have seen Sir Reg Empey lurking on the sidelines of DUP press conferences, like the ghost of unionism past, nodding in assent whilst inflammatory comments were made and tensions were raised and chipping in when permitted. I am sure the people of East Belfast will be appalled to hear him raise the traditional Sinn Fein battle cry of police “heavy-handedness” in a pathetic attempt to mask or excuse the depravity which has wrecked our city and wrecked its reputation in a concerted and determined effort to kill police officers.”