I will not be deterred from democracy by these thugs – McNamee

Opinion Piece in the Belfast Telegraph by Belfast Alliance Cllr Laura McNamee

What started out as legitimate, peaceful protests following the vote on whether the Union flag should be on permanent display outside Belfast City Hall have now given way to the violent protests and attacks that we have seen over the past few days.

What happened outside the Alliance office on the Upper Newtownards Road last Monday night was appalling – an attack on a policewoman, one of the people trying their best to protect the interests of the whole community.

We have been overwhelmed since by support from the police, who have been trying to protect our offices, our staff and our constituents.

Those people who were peacefully protesting are now having their voices drowned out by those who are seemingly intent on rioting.

It is because of the Alliance amendment that the Union flag will continue to fly at all at Belfast City Hall.

If Alliance had not been represented at the council, it would have been a straight vote between nationalists and unionists and the flag would not be flying at all.

We knew this was a sensitive issue for a number of people, but we want to represent the whole community. We have to compromise in the interest of a shared future.

Personally, I knew what I was signing up for when I got involved in politics. I expected to engage in robust debate in the political arena. But when it is brought to your own door, it is a different thing altogether.

I have been advised by police not to attend public meetings on this matter, because of the continued threat against my party. I have reluctantly accepted their advice.

But my preference would be to engage with people in a democratic fashion. Violence and intimidation is never the answer.

Many people depend on being able to call into our constituency office for advice and assistance. Due to the continued attacks on our offices, they are the ones who stand to lose out – alongside local businesses that have been forced to close numerous times during the pre-Christmas period.

The death-threat on the First Minister, Peter Robinson, should be unequivocally condemned by everyone. There can never be any attempt to justify these threats, or attacks – nor should any politician seek to do so.

I would like to show support and sympathy to those representatives who have faced death-threats, including Jeffrey Donaldson, Edwin Poots and my colleague Naomi Long.

It is at times like these that we need to stand together and show our opposition to these threats.

There is now an onus on every elected representative to come together and show unity in defence of democracy and the rule of law.

We need to see a better working relationship between the parties, so we can move beyond the squabbles we have seen over the issue of flags in recent months.

Northern Ireland is still sitting on a faultline, where tensions can erupt into the violence we have seen in past two weeks.

That is why we need to work to improve good relations and help deliver a shared future.

There have been attacks on the homes of my Alliance colleagues, Michael and Christine Bower and Linda Cleland and the offices of Stewart Dickson and Stephen Farry.

I do not think you would see this level of attacks and intimidation anywhere else in the UK, or Ireland, so I do think that, when you enter politics here, you have to know there is a greater risk of this happening.

But I came into this line of work to get on with the job and that is what I intend to do.

We are grateful for the support of our constituents. And it is my hope that this image of violence will not be the image the rest of the world sees come the New Year.

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/i-will-not-be-deterred-from-democracy-by-these-thugs-16250436.html#ixzz2F9OtHUYM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *