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Statement by Tim Attwood (SDLP) about the flag protests, (6 January 2013)

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Text: Tim Attwood ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh

Statement by Tim Attwood, then SDLP Belfast City Council Group Leader, about the flag protests, (6 January 2013)


Dialogue is the only way to resolve difficulties wtnessed in Belfast over the past month

Mr Attwood was speaking ahead of the first monthly meeting of Belfast City Council since the flags protests and said every party and member of the council must stand in full support of the police having to deal with the situation on the front-line and insist on proper dialogue that will tackle social disadvantage across the city.

Councillor Attwood said: "This has been a very difficult and challenging month for Belfast - especially for citizens, PSNI officers and local retailers. We have witnessed loyalist protestors blocking streets, intimidation of political representatives and PSNI officers threatened by both loyalists and dissident republicans. It is essential that democratic politics and the rule of law prevail. Different sides may disagree with political decisions and have the right to protest but nobody has the right to disrupt business, threaten politicians or target police officers.

Once again, the police officers are in the front line, facing threats and violence from loyalists and fringe republicans. It is essential that the PSNI are robust in bringing law breakers to justice but it is also important that political representatives show their support for the police. Before Christmas, the SDLP in West Belfast privately met with local neighbourhood and response officers in Woodbourne Police Station to express our support and personal solidarity with local officers after a series of attacks by dissident republicans. It was a very interesting and frank exchange but what was most striking was the dedication and resilience of the police officers to deliver, on-the-ground, community policing across Belfast.

We all need to show the same resilience. The SDLP remains committed to building a future in Belfast which is built on respect for diversity and for political difference. We want a Belfast where we all can rejoice in our own cherished aspirations and beliefs. Through dialogue and respect so much more can be achieved. There was a process of dialogue between parties in City Hall on the decade of centenaries; the protocol agreed enabled the SDLP to support, in a spirit of partnership and accommodation, the vast majority of events related to 100th commemoration of the Ulster Covenant and the Diamond Jubilee events.

As the Party of Civil Rights we still have an abiding commitment to social justice, equality and rights for all. It is essential that the council builds upon our positive investment package to support disadvantaged communities across Belfast. We not only have to invest in the Falls and Shankill but we need a strategy which has clear outcomes in terms of jobs and training. We need a long term integrated approach to tackle the scandal of health inequalities which means men from areas of need die nine years younger than in other parts of Belfast. It is important that political parties in council respond to these issues in a collective and united manner."


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