Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader David Ford has accused unionist parties of fueling the flag riots in the capital city of Belfast.
Speaking at the annual Alliance Party conference, Ford blamed mainstream unionist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), for provoking the violent protests over the flying of the British flag above Belfast’s City Hall.
“When Unionist politicians say that those who raised the flag issue need to accept their responsibility for what followed, they are right. They need to recognize what happens to when you stir up tension in a divided society, when you encourage protest without knowing where it will lead and cannot bring yourself to call an end to illegality without any ambiguity,” Ford stated.
Belfast’s almost two months of flag riots were sparked by a loyalist mob forcing its way through back gates of Belfast City Hall only minutes after nationalist councilors voted to take down the Union Jack from the building on all but 17 days of the year.
The violent flag riots have led to 150 arrests, dozens of police officers injured and millions of pounds in lost trading.