THE Alliance MP forced from her home by a loyalist death threat has called for "mature political leadership from those who whipped up tensions" against her.
East Belfast representative Naomi Long, who took the DUP stronghold from party leader Peter Robinson at the last election, was warned by police early yesterday.
The threat to Mrs Long is the latest against an Alliance member and follows an attack on the Bangor home of two North Down councillors, an arson attack on East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson's Carrickfergus constituency office and an attempt to set North Down MLA Stephen Farry's office on fire.
Mrs Long accused unionists of making her the target of anger over Monday's vote to restrict the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.
"In the run-up to the vote on Monday there was a concerted effort on the part of the DUP and UUP with the delivery of thousands of leaflets in predominantly unionist areas, not only to whip up tensions with inflammatory language and bogus claims about the Alliance Party's position but to focus that anger on me personally even though I am not a councillor or directly involved in the decision-making process," she said.
"It is little wonder that in that context those who would resort to violence would also target me in this way.
"There is a particular responsibility on those who stoked the fire and fanned the flames of this situation to reflect on the consequences of their campaign and learn the lessons of this entire sorry episode."
Mrs Long said she recognised that "there are strong feelings about the issue of flags, on both sides" but stressed that "in a democracy these arguments have to be made in a peaceful way".
"This is not an attack on an individual or on a party but a wanton attack on the democratic process," the Alliance deputy leader said.
"It is long past time that this vicious campaign of intimidation and violence was brought to a permanent end."
Mrs Long said the threat would not stop her from "delivering the valuable constituency service which I have developed since first elected in 2001, a service to all of the people of East Belfast".
Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller described the development as "deeply disturbing".
"There can be no moral justification for such a threat or acts of violence in the name of 'protest', however strongly held one's views are on any symbols of identity or allegiance," he said.
"To resort to intimidation and attack is an affront to the high values of democratic freedom within the United Kingdom and to its flag and offers nothing to our society in Northern Ire-land."
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan said he stood in "solidarity with Naomi".
"This death threat is not only an attack on her or her politics but on the democratic process," he said.
"Such attacks on democratic representatives show that the perpetrators are bankrupt of principle and barren of ideals."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, Jim McVeigh, leader of Sinn Fein's group on the council, said he too had received a death threat.
A telephone caller to the party's Falls Road office said he would be shot or stabbed if he was seen on the street.
Mr McVeigh said the threat "will not deter or intimidate Sinn Fein from the work of making the city hall a more inclusive place".
"Those behind it cannot accept democracy or the fact that I have been democratically elected to represent the people of this city," he said. ■ SPEAKING OUT: Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long gives a press conference at Stormont yesterday
Arthur Allison ■ ALSO WARNED: Jim McVeigh