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Alliance and DUP offices vandalised and DUP MLA William Irwin receives threat

 Graffiti saying RIP GFA (Good Friday Agreement) has been sprayed on the offices of North Down MP Stephen Farry. Picture from Stephen Farry on Twitter 
Maeve Connolly

Offices belonging to the Alliance Party and to the DUP have been vandalised in Co Down while Newry and Armagh DUP assembly member William Irwin has been informed by police of a threat against him.

Graffiti has been daubed on the Newtownards offices of Alliance assembly member Kellie Armstrong, DUP Education Minister Peter Weir and DUP MP Jim Shannon. All three represent the constituency of Strangford. The Bangor office of Alliance North Down MP Stephen Farry has also been vandalised. 

"RIP GFA" - a reference to the Good Friday Agreement - was sprayed on Mr Farry's office, while "Stay out" was daubed on Ms Armstrong's.

The vandalism has been condemned by assembly members in the Assembly this morning. DUP MLA William Irwin also told the Assembly that he had been informed by police of a threat against him.

The Newry and Armagh elected representative said he had been contacted by police on Saturday January 30 and informed of "social media misinformation" and a threat. 

Also speaking in the Assembly Sinn Féin's Linda Dillon condemned the threats against staff at Belfast and Larne ports as well as the graffiti daubed on Mr Farry's office and urged those speaking to "watch their tone".

"We need to have cool heads, we need to temper our language, we need to know that the tone that we set in this place is what will happen outside, and for us not to take full responsibility for that is disingenuous," she said.

Graffiti opposing the Irish Sea border has been written on walls in loyalist areas in recent days and last night council staff carrying out Brexit inspection duties were removed from Larne and Belfast port due to the sinister graffiti and reports of intelligence-gathering on inspectors. Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots then announced that he was temporarily suspending physical inspections of products of animal origins at the two ports.

The DUP's Edwin Poots this morning told BBC Radio 4 that "it is difficult for politicians to (control) the level of anger that is in the community in respect of this and it is a time for calm heads and a time for wise behaviour, but these things have certainly created a lot of tension in the community”. Read more

The EU has now withdrawn its staff.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said Brussels' officials were being temporarily withdrawn from duties at the ports.

"Obviously the security of our staff in Northern Ireland is as high a preoccupation as that of any other person working in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement," he told reporters in Brussels.

"We have asked them not to attend their duties today and we will continue to monitor the situation and adapt accordingly."

The Executive has released a joint statement condemning the threats.

"The threats should be lifted immediately and staff should be allowed to return to their posts and get back to their work.

"There is no place in society for intimidation and threats against anyone going to their place of work."

The PSNI was due to meet council officials this morning to discuss the situation.

British Cabinet minister Michael Gove, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic are expected to take part in a video call tomorrow.

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