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Maskey stands by comments about defending homes

Published 16/01/2013

John Manley

SINN Fein's Alex Maskey was last night sticking by his controversial comments about defending homes in Belfast's Short Strand despite the DUP lodging a complaint at Stormont.

The South Belfast MLA made his remarks after homes in the east Belfast nationalist enclave were attacked with petrol bombs on Monday night.

During the loyalist violence, petrol bombs were also thrown at St Matthew's church on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Speaking later on UTV Live, Mr Maskey said: "What we've been hearing tonight is people from the Short Strand throwing stones back and, if they are, they're defending their homes.

"And if I lived in the Short Strand, I'd be throwing the stones along with those people - because it's disgraceful what those people are having to put up with."

Mr Maskey subsequently repeated his assertion that under the circumstances people close to the Short Strand interface had endured, he would defend his home.

He likened the situation to that of DUP minister Edwin Poots who last year fired warning shots from a legally held shotgun after finding intruders near his Lisburn home.

Speaking to The Irish News last night, Mr Maskey said he stood by the comments.

"I made it very clear that I would defend my home if it was coming under attack," he said.

Responding to criticism of the remarks, he told The Irish News: "I will take no lectures from people who on one hand criticise me but on the other do nothing to challenge the people responsible for attacking nationalist homes."

North Down assembly member and DUP chief whip Peter Weir yesterday submitted a complaint to Stormont's standards and privileges committee.

Citing the assembly's code of conduct, he said elected representatives had a duty to give leadership and promote good relations by upholding the rule of law.

"It is right and proper that the standards commissioner investigates this matter," Mr Weir said.

"The answer to violence is not more violence - all the violence we have witnessed in recent days is wrong, regardless of who may have been carrying it out."

The sanctions potentially imposed on Mr Maskey include issuing an apology to the assembly, suspension and having his rights and privileges withdrawn for a specified period.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott described the comments as "outrageous".

"At a time of huge sensitivities within the Northern Ireland community this statement from Mr Maskey is totally irresponsible," he said.

Alliance chief whip Stewart Dickson said: "Alex Maskey was completely wrong to say that he would be throwing stones if he lived in the Short Strand.

"In saying these words he is providing legitimacy to those who have been carrying out the violence we have seen in recent weeks." ■ VIEWS: Alex Maskey ■ REPAIR: A workman starts to repair houses in Short Strand which were damaged during nearby rioting over the weekend