Statement I've just put out in relation to the Union flag issue and protests at Belfast City Hall
"Following the debate on flying the Union flag on designated days at Belfast City Hall and the associated scenes of violence which followed, the Green Party has labelled the incident as party politicking by both Sinn Fein and the DUP.
“This episode can hardly be described as supportive of good community relations,” Green Party Councillor Dr John Barry said.
“When this came up for debate in North Down Borough Council at the end of last month, I voted against this motion on the grounds that it is for Belfast City Council to determine how to proceed on this issue and not the business of North Down Council to dictate to them.
“But also because we can see that the big power block parties of Sinn Fein and the DUP are manipulating the situation to protect their own voting base.
“Therefore, they must take some responsibility for inciting bitterness and hatred which saw violence on our streets.
“I also think this is a piece of cynical political posturing by the DUP to win back the East Belfast Westminster seat having lost it at the last election.
“The Green Party’s view is we have more important issues to be discussed other than flags such as the economy, health and education.
“How has this debate improved the lives of anyone?
“In fact, this has been a major step backwards on the road to a shared future showing a clear lack of vision and political leadership.
“A confident sense of identity should be based on the Good Friday Agreement which established that the union is secure and underpinned by the consent principle, and the international legal obligations of this are accepted by both the Irish and British governments.
“I look forward to the day when as a society we can develop a more positive sense of identity based not simply on the flying of flags, but for example on celebrating and defending the key principals of democracy such as healthcare free at the point of delivery and defence of the most vulnerable society through fair welfare benefits.”