Warnings over 'cycle of violence'
Published 15/01/2013 | 14:45
Northern Ireland is being dragged into a dangerous cycle of violence that is putting lives at risk, the Stormont Assembly has been told.
During the debate on inclusivity, mutual respect, peace and democracy politicians called for a return to the spirit of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which formed the bedrock of their government.
Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said politicians must face down the elements trying to destabilise the political institutions, saying: "What is unfolding in our streets is a downward spiral of violence. Someone is going to get seriously injured or lose their lives and we have a responsibility to direct what is going on out there into a political agreement.
"The only way you will get political agreement is if party leaders sit down together and agree to hammer out agreement and face down those that are attacking this peace process on a daily basis."
The debate comes after another night on violence in east Belfast. A police officer was injured and a bus driver hit by flying glass during rioting in the lower Newtownards Road area.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the Executive must address big-ticket issues such as dealing with the past, reconciliation and building a shared future. He said: "Let me be clear about the violence of the last five weeks. It is all wrong. It has done huge damage to our economy and the public purse.
"Some unionists on the lower Newtownards Road think leadership means me standing with them on the streets. I think it means offering a path that takes them off the streets, to a political place where they can have hope of delivery on the issues that concern them."
At times, during the hour-long debate there were heated exchanges across the Assembly chamber.
The DUP's Paul Givan, who chairs the justice committee at Stormont, claimed the Prime Minister had fuelled anger among some unionists. "Others have created the tensions include the Prime Minister David Cameron, apologising for what happened around Pat Finucane," he said.
Meanwhile, Chris Lyttle from the cross community Alliance Party said elected representatives had fallen short. He also described unionist opposition to flying the Union flag over Belfast City Hall on 17 designated days as a missed opportunity to demonstrate how a shared future could work.