MLAs unite in condemnation of attacks

Politicians from across the divide have united to condemn the spate of attacks on homes and police in Larne at the weekend.

East Antrim Assembly members have deplored the incident in which up to 100 men – many of them masked – descended on the town on Sunday and targeted a number of homes.

Police also came under attack when they responded to the incident, with one officer sustaining injuries.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson felt the attacks were in retaliation for a number of police arrests over the last week, and also believed the culprits were “settling scores in an attempt to stamp paramilitary authority on parts of the town”.

The DUP man added: “The police must ensure that they have the intelligence and the resources to anticipate the activities of these criminals and apprehend them. In turn the community must cooperate with the police to enable them to do their work.”

Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan felt the police could have done more in response to the attacks.

“Some of the victims have already been attacked on more than one occasion,” he added.

“I had warned that an attack like this was imminent and I’m not convinced that everything, which could have been done by police to prevent it was done.

“Of course the responsibility for the attacks lie with the thugs behind it.

“The south east Antrim UDA should get off the backs of the people of Larne and disband immediately.

“The police need to respond robustly to this and I’m calling for arrests of those involved.”

Mr McMullan also said he would be asking for a report on the police response to the incident, as he I believes an opportunity was missed to make arrests.

He added: “I acknowledge the courage and the efforts of the police officers injured in an effort to prevent an attack on one of the homes.

“However, it’s worrying that police were unable to apprehend any of the 70 to 100 strong mob involved in the attacks.”

UUP representative Roy Beggs described the incident on Sunday as “a challenge to British law-and-order”.

He added: “There have been a number of incidents over recent months in Larne. Last week, with a number of men being arrested, it was hoped that the rule of law was prevailing and that the PPS and the courts would have a role to play in administering British justice.

“However, with masked men with weapons appearing in Larne, attacking homes, assaulting individuals and injuring a police officer we have seen that there is a challenge to the rule of Law in the streets of Larne.

“Do those who are orchestrating and carrying out these attacks think they are above the law?

“This is serious, organised crime endangering life. I would call for significant additional police resources to be dedicated to address those who are challenging British law and the justice system.”

East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the attacks raised “serious questions about the status of this paramilitary group”.

He added: “The Chief Constable must look into this matter. It is disgraceful that the police were attacked when they responded to this trouble. I hope that the injured officer will be able to make a speedy recovery.

“This was an act of pure criminality, focused on attempting to take control of an area and the violent intimidation of a community. The public are sick and tired of thugs, gangsters and criminals trying to hold our community to ransom.”

DUP MLA for east Antrim, Alastair Ross said there is “no place for vigilante rule anywhere in Northern Ireland”.

Meanwhile, north Antrim TUV leader Jim Allister has called for a more “readily available” police services in Larne.

Mr Allister, speaking in the Assembly earlier this week, branded the attacks on homes in the town at the weekend as “vicious, outight thuggery”.

And he hoped the perpetrators would be “hunted down and made accountable under the criminal justice system”.

The TUV man added: “If there are those who think that they have some sort of mandate for the lawlessness that they visited on Larne, they have an opportunity in a couple of months — on 22 May — to demonstrate if they have a mandate or not. I venture to believe that they will neither test it nor anything else, because they know that they have no mandate for this sort of activity.”

Mr Allister also expressed his “disappointment” at the recent change to police infrastructire, which he said leaves Larne “somewhat exposed”.

“I am told that, at times, there is but one police car to circulate in the Larne area because it has all been centralised effectively back to Ballymena. That does not seem to me to be the right way to go about policing major towns such as Larne.

“I think that the police need to look at the adequacy and efficiency of the response and whether it was sufficient or whether it could have been better if there had been a concentration of more localised, readily available services in the town. I think that it certainly could have been better in that regard.”

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