16 September 2005

Hain: Unionists living in denial

Belfast Telegraph

Riots and protests continue

By Chris Thornton, Political Correspondent
cthornton@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
16 September 2005

UNIONIST politicians have made themselves fellow travellers "with thuggery and gangsterism" during this week's explosion of loyalist violence, Secretary of State Peter Hain said today.

As the unrest threatened to spill into a second week, Mr Hain gave his blunt assessment of unionism in a Belfast Telegraph interview - saying many unionists live with a "sense of denial" about what the peace process has achieved and need to "get real" about the future.

The rift between unionists and the Government deepened last night as DUP and UUP members resigned from Belfast's District Policing Partnerships.

The resigning councillors accused police of "intransigence" - at the same time that an FBI agent visiting Belfast said US police would have had "no problem using deadly force" against the loyalist rioters who attacked the PSNI this week.

Loyalist protesters again blocked traffic in the city last night, followed by some rioting in west Belfast.

Loyalist sources have hinted that the campaign could escalate, with the threat of more resignations and a possible rally in Belfast next month.

But Naomi Long, an Alliance Party representative on the Belfast Police Partnership, said unionist support for policing was "skin deep".

"When push comes to shove, the commitment of unionist politicians to the defence of police and the rule of law and order is just tactical and superficial," she said.

In today's interview, Mr Hain said the loyalist violence was "pre-meditated, pre-planned and you can't do anything other than condemn it openly".

"I think it's important that we draw a line in the sand on that," he said.

"I think the vast majority of Protestants and unionists totally abhor violence, are law-abiding, but there's been an element of fellow-travelling with what happened over the weekend, saying 'well, we told you so'.

"There's an element of not reacting to the ferocious violence against police in a way that the reaction would have been to equivalent violence from republicans against police. I just think there's a sense of denial over that as well.

"You're either with the rule of law or you're not.

"There has been too much fellow-travelling with thuggery and gangsterism. Which I know has appalled the great majority in the Orange Order. I know that for a fact."

Mr Hain also said the havoc in loyalist areas will not be "cost free" - because money will have to come from "other public investment" to pay for the damage.


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