Former Deputy Mayor Tommy Kirkham has denied suggestions that loyalist paramilitaries were responsible for hijacking and burning cars outside Mossley Mill on Friday night.
The South and East Antrim Community Federation spokesman, a former independent loyalist councillor who previously represented the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group, condemned the violence in Mossley and Rathcoole. However, he stressed that he supports “peaceful and constructive protests” by those “campaigning to restore the dignity around the flying of the flag of our nation.”
Mr Kirkham, who lost his council seat at the last election, described claims that known paramilitaries were behind the trouble as “convenient”, adding that young people intent on anti-social behaviour and “anarchists hell-bent on damage and destruction” were responsible for the disturbances.
“Key influencers and community activists were there, out on the ground as part of their role as leaders within the Protestant community. Many of them were there at the request of senior police officers in each area so that they could use whatever influence they could to ensure that there was constructive and genuine liaison between protesters and the police,” he told the Times.
Turning to the row over the flying of the Union flag at the City Hall, the former Macedon representative said the right to fly the flag is a key aspect of British identity.
“From a patriotic point of view, it (the Union flag) should be flown from all public buildings every day; that is why as a councillor on Newtownabbey Council back in 1990 I proposed that it be flown on all council property 365 days of the year. That proposal still stands today and quite rightly so.”
Stressing that people should not allow violence and anarchy to erode their British identity, he added: “Those involved in the street violence don’t have a vote as they never registered to get one, therefore they can never influence change. If you want change, then get your vote, lobby for your principles and when it comes to election time, vote for the person or party who thinks the way you do, that’s democracy - democracy and freedom that was won by British servicemen and women who fought in two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.”
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