SOUTH Antrim MLA Paul Girvan has said so-called flag protestors who descended on Mossley Mill on Friday night were “intent on rioting”.
The Assemblyman and councillor was attacked by stone throwers when he approached them to ask them to disperse from the gates of the council’s headquarters.
Mr Girvan told the Times there were known paramilitary figures in the area.
He said: “They may say that what happened did not have the endorsement of their leadership, but what I would argue is that if these organisations have any kind of control they would exercise it and ensure that these protests do not escalate into violence.”
He went on to say there were around 50 people gathered at the gates of Mossley Mill.
“It was an organised mob that did not go to Mossley Mill to protest, they were intent on rioting.”
When asked if he would be passing on information to the police, the South Antim representative added: “The police have already been speaking to me, but I will not be turned into a supergrass when the police already have enough information to go on to allow them to investigate what happened.”
On the issue of protesting against the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall, the senior DUP man appealed for calm.
He said: “I am all for peaceful protests, but when it denigrates into violence and destruction that cannot be acceptable.
“Newtownabbey is one of the councils which flies the flag 365 days a year and that will not be changing, so there is no point protesting outside our gates.
“There are many, many people who are very unhappy with Belfast City Council’s decision to only fly the flag on certain days which I can fully understand.
“But what they have said to me is that they will not join up with the protests because they know there is the potential for violence and do not want to be seen with people who have their faces covered with scarves.
“I would urge for calm and for more people to engage in the democratic process. On Belfast Council there is a nationalist majority and in some areas a few hundred votes could have secured a unionist seat, but people did not vote.
“People need to realise that by taking part in the democratic process they can narrow the margin and possibly put an end to decisions like this.”
He added: “There is a perception that the British culture and heritage is slowly being eroded away by nationalists and this decision by Belfast helps to reinforce that.”