Chris Lyttle MLA said: “Unionist parties instigated a concerted and organised campaign to mislead, manipulate and raise tension on City Hall flag policies almost immediately after the democratic election of Naomi Long MP, who was chosen because she is the best candidate for the job and committed to serving all the people of East Belfast.
“The time spent by DUP and UUP members delivering photocopies of misleading newspaper articles, inaccurate leaflets in Alliance Party colours and bringing people on to the street to protest at democratic offices stands in stark contrast to their failure to deliver on issues of importance to local people such as education, employment and community cohesion.
“A motion was brought to permanently remove the Union flag from Belfast City Hall, but as a result of leadership from Alliance Party Councillors, Republican and Nationalist representatives passed an historic vote to recognise the place of the Union flag at City Hall on designated days. Rather than promote this development as a positive and unique recognition of British identity on a cross-community basis, Unionist representatives have extended the false narrative that this is an erosion of British identity, heightening existing insecurity and fear.
“Unionist representatives are missing an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership on community relations and advance a more positive understanding and celebration of British identity. I hope; however, they will realise and promote the opportunity to celebrate the significance and meaning of these days in a collective manner across the city.
“Some Unionist representatives and their staff have gone as far as to encourage protest at Alliance Party constituency offices despite the serious violence that followed original protests at City Hall on Monday night. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the safety of people, businesses and the PSNI in East Belfast. In the economic climate, it is ludicrous that the people who said they would rather be dealing with the economy are encouraging others to behave in ways which has disrupted constituency services and forced small businesses to close.
“People can seek to intimidate my party colleagues and I from doing our job but we will continue to work on the democratic mandate we have been given to deliver a shared and better future for all in East Belfast.”