Alliance Party targeted in flag protest

More attacks have been carried out on the non-sectarian Alliance Party during a night of violence in the North.

The office of Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry was targeted for attempted arson in Bangor, Co Down, while a paint bomb was hurled at the house of a married councillor couple with a 17-month-old baby girl who represent the party in the same seaside town.

Hundreds of loyalists rioted and burned the offices of Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, last night and four police officers were injured after missiles were thrown. Non-lethal baton rounds were discharged.

Four people have been arrested in connection with the Carrickfergus incident.

They included a 20-year-old woman who has been charged with riotous behaviour, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

She is expected to appear at Belfast magistrates' court this morning.

The violence followed Monday's decision of Belfast City Council to fly the Union flag only on designated days at its city hall in a measure supported by Alliance.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Will Kerr said: "We saw criminal, thuggish, intimidating behaviour here and we need to put a stop to this."

An Alliance Party spokeswoman said petrol was used at Mr Farry's central Bangor office but police attended the scene before damage was caused.

Also in Bangor, North Down councillors Michael and Christine Bower were at home with their young child when a paint bomb was thrown at the front of the house, smashing a window.

Last night party offices in Carrickfergus were attacked and police pelted with stones and missiles after a crowd of up to 1,600 protested against a decision to restrict the flying of the flag at Belfast City Hall.

The party offices were targeted because members of the Alliance Party on the council voted in favour of the flag being flown only on designated days.

Offices in east Belfast belonging to the party's only MP, Naomi Long, have been picketed and one councillor was advised not to return to her home because of fears for her life.

An office belonging to a charity for the disabled is also believed to have been damaged in last night's Carrickfergus fire.

Stewart Dickson, an Alliance Party member at the Northern Ireland Assembly who used the Carrickfergus offices, said the building had previous been sprayed with graffiti by loyalists.

He accused the two main unionist parties of whipping up tensions.

He added: "This is an outright attack on democracy and cannot be allowed to continue. This campaign of intimidation against the Alliance Party cannot be allowed to continue."

There was serious street disorder in Belfast on Monday night after the city council voted to limit the flying of the flag. Loyalists rioted and at one stage attempted to smash their way into the City Hall.

Mr Farry said petrol or some other accelerant was poured over his office shutters by a number of people. They were interrupted by a passing police patrol and fled the scene.

"An orchestrated campaign of intimidation against Alliance elected representatives has unsurprisingly turned violent," he said.

"We in Alliance will remain resolute in standing up for values of a shared future, democracy and the rule of law."

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