POLITICIANS have united to condemn the violence that marred Monday night’s protest in Portadown.
Upper Bann MP David Simpson insisted that the violence was “totally unacceptable” and only served to disrupt the community.
However, the Upper Bann MP (DUP) insisted the protests are an indication of the “anger” that exists within the wider unionist community and had to be acknowledged and faced.
He added, “The flags issue is a symptom of a much wider problem. It is but the latest in a range of issues raising tensions within the unionist community. I firmly support the flying of the Union flag on all our civic buildings and throughout Northern Ireland but I do not condone the violence that has ripped through our province.
“I call on the unionist people of Craigavon to support the Unionist Forum which will engage with the community and address a number of concerns including the flying of the Union flag and wider cultural issues.”
Ulster Unionist Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said, “There is understandable anger among Unionists across Northern Ireland at the Belfast decision to stop flying the Union flag 94 per cent of the year seen by many as the tipping point of the erosion of our identity.
“However anger becomes self-defeating when it turns to violence. I defend fully the right of anyone to peacefully protest, and I would encourage anyone who comes to a protest with violent intent to simply stay at home and for those who do attend to treat the flag with the respect it is due.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly also condemned those responsible for the violence.
However, she also lambasted what she described as the “poor leadership being shown by unionist leaders over the past couple of weeks”.
She added, “One of the main arterial routes in the town was blocked at great inconvenience to motorists eager to get home safely. A protestor was knocked down during disturbances. The person who accidentally hit the man was surrounded by protestors who started hitting the man’s car. This must have been an extremely terrifying ordeal.
“This is a time of year when people should be looking forward to a welcome break and share some valuable time with family and friends. These protests are causing people to live in fear and that is totally unacceptable. The First and Deputy First Minister must stand united against these protests and send a clear message that any violence whether by dissident republicans or loyalists will be dealt with immediately and decisively.”