Villiers condemns attacks on NI police officers

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Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has condemned the ongoing violence on the streets of Belfast, telling MPs "no stone will be left unturned" in bringing those responsible for attacks on police officers to justice.

Rioting began four nights ago after a ban of a contentious Orange Order parade in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast.

Since Friday, 71 police officers and an MP have been injured, and 60 people arrested.

Addressing MPs on 16 July 2013, Ms Villiers said: "Those who engage in so-called recreational rioting and attacks on police officers can expect the full force of the law.

"I am confident for some that will mean that for the next 12 July holiday that will be spent not out in the sunshine following the parades, but locked up in prison living with the consequence of the crimes they have committed."

Ms Villiers wished a speedy recovery to Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds, the party's leader in Westminster, who was knocked unconscious after being hit by a missile thrown by loyalists.

Ms Villiers opposite number, Vernon Coaker, echoed her well wishes, and unequivocally condemned the "disgraceful" attacks in Northern Ireland.

"There is not justification for it. The disgraceful attacks on the police have resulted in dozens of injuries and the very deliberate attempt to murder officers by throwing blast bombs at them last night was shameful."

The shadow Northern Ireland secretary said the only way to solve the disputes that led to the violence was through dialogue and local agreement and urged those working towards a solution not to give up.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said he had "grave concerns" about the Parades Commission as there was a perception that their decision on the Ardoyne march "was seen to reward the violence of the previous year".

But the DLP's Margaret Ritchie said the violence stems from loyalist rhetoric "rather than the lawful authority of the Parades Commission".

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