It is becoming apparent that in East Belfast this afternoon shots were fired at the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Irrespective of which side fired these shots the fact that this current state of unrest has escalated to such a stage that guns are being used against the Police is not the way forward. The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland want a peaceful future that all people can live together without fear as we have in the past.
It is time for community leaders, especially those calling for people out unto the streets to call this course of action to a stop. It is clear that there are individuals that will associate with such a group intent on violence, even attempted murder, at this time and those organising protests appear to have no control over the actions of such individuals.
Of course the right of individuals to gather in a peaceful protest is something that is part of a thriving democracy. But the escalation of these protests to heightened tensions, violence, threats of violence, provocation and attacks on the Police with murderous intent and force mean that protests over such a heated issue can no longer be guaranteed as peaceful. Therefore the time has come to stop placing individuals whether members of the general public, marchers returning from protests, communities next to routes or the PSNI in danger. The only logical way to ensure everyone’s safety is to stop these protests which can be seen by others as provocative.
It is time to end the madness on our streets. It is time for people to sit down in a cross community setting, not in isolation as one community or another, to discuss this issue.