SF ‘have lost touch with reality’ as Anderson blames DUP for violence

The DUP have accused Sinn Fein of having “lost touch with reality” after Martina Anderson blamed the party for stoking up violent unrest.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 6:48 pm
Pacemaker Press 04-04-2021: The Cloughfern roundabout in the O'Neill Road area of Newtownabbey

It comes as the PSNI today made an appeal to “people of influence” to help quench the disorder in loyalist-dominated districts.

Street disturbances which began in south Belfast and Londonderry spread over the weekend to the Cloughfern / Fernagh area of Newtownabbey, and then to Carrickfergus on Sunday night.

Even before the news emerged last week that nobody would receive so much as a caution over the Bobby Storey funeral extravaganza, there were already signs of growing discord in loyalist communities in the Newtownabbey and Carrick areas.

Posters, stickers, and graffiti have appeared strongly attacking the Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol and the resulting Irish Sea border; one piece of graffiti in central Carrick says simply: “Protocol = war”.

The PSNI said one officer was hurt by one of four petrol bombs thrown at the Cloughfern / Fernagh roundabout on Sunday night, while on Carrick’s North Road 20 petrol bombs were thrown, along with masonry, injuring four police officers.

And whilst police faced the same kind of attacks in Londonderry’s Waterside on Sunday, along with burning roadblocks, no injuries were reported there.

It brings the total number of officers injured in recent days to 32.

Chief Superintendent Davy Beck said the attacks were “clearly orchestrated” and appealed to “people with influence in those communities to put a stop to this”.

He believes “a small group of disaffected criminal elements are clearly involved in influencing young people”.

Asked if he thought the blame lay with the South Antrim UDA (which counts the Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus areas as strongholds), he replied: “As I said, I believe that this is a group of disaffected criminal gangs and we will investigate that.”

At the weekend, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly had said the disturbances were “a direct consequence of the actions of political unionism” – including “the DUP’s rhetoric and undermining of the PSNI”.

And today fellow SF MLA Martina Anderson wrote on Twitter: “The violence in the Waterside is madness stoked up by the DUP and resulting in people being hurt and young people arrested and charged.

“We Derry political leaders need to stand together & collectively show support to all the victims of violence & against those who are perpetrating it.”

About an hour after condemning the stoking-up of tensions, she re-tweeted a message from Derry Sinn Fein’s Twitter account: “NOW IS OUR TIME, NOW IS THE TIME FOR IRISH UNITY.”

Responding to her comments, DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said: “Street violence is totally wrong and cannot be justified.

“Whilst the senior command of the police failed to enforce the rule of law regarding Sinn Fein’s attendance at the Bobby Storey funeral, there is no justification for physical attacks on police officers.

“We support the police and the rule of law. It must be applied equally and fairly.

“It was the failure to do that which has caused the lack of confidence in the Chief Constable.

“For Martina Anderson and Sinn Fein to speak in such condescending tones shows how they’ve lost touch with reality.

“Such is Sinn Fein’s arrogance and sense of entitlement, they have failed to recognise that their disregard for the rule of law has caused this political crisis.”

Long-serving DUP councillor Billy Ashe, a Carrickfergus resident who has been mayor of the town three times, said: “There is a real perception within the loyalist community that there is two-tier policing going on, and that Sinn Fein are pulling the political strings of the chief constable.

“There have been a number of decisions that have led to this perception.

“Obviously the story about no prosecutions at the Bobby Storey funeral has been the one that’s brought people onto the streets. But there is tension around the sea border – there are issues around that.”

Asked if he detected UDA or UVF influence in the disorder, he said: “I’m not sure at this stage that either of those organisations are behind it.

“I think what we’ve seen here is a reaction that’s basically got out of hand.

“Certainly I want to condemn the rioting – it’s not the way to go forward. It is not the way to right the wrongs. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“But I also want the powers-that-be to know that there are real tensions within unionist communities...

“I also hope people acknowledge the policemen on the streets are victims in this as well – it’s the heirarchy within the police. They really need to be looking at themselves.”

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