Leaders deny rift amid rioting
Jul 14 2010
Northern Ireland's First Minister and the region's police chief have denied there was a rift between them in the wake of three nights of severe rioting.
Peter Robinson and Matt Baggott insisted they were fully supportive of each other's efforts to deal with the violence that has left more than 80 police officers injured in clashes reminiscent of the dark days of the Troubles.
The two men, who with Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness held talks at Stormont, put forward the united front a day after Democratic Unionist leader Mr Robinson and a senior police commander were openly critical of each other.
Assistant chief constable Alistair Finlay ingled out Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness when questioning whether politicians had done enough to try to prevent violence around the summer marching season.
In response, Mr Robinson branded Mr Finlay's remarks "unhelpful and unacceptable".
The police and politicians struck a more conciliatory note.
Standing outside Stormont Castle following the meeting, Mr Robinson said: "We have nothing but the highest admiration for the way the police have coped with the most difficult of circumstances over the last couple of days and we again call on our whole community to stand beside the police at this time and every time."
Flanked by the First and Deputy First Ministers, Mr Baggott added: "I have never had a rift with my colleagues standing to the left and right of me here. We are absolutely determined that we will make progress and do the right things."
Earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron had condemned the rioting as "utterly unacceptable".
After a third night of trouble, Mr Cameron paid tribute to the "restraint" and bravery shown by the police as they came under attack. He said more than 80 police officers had been injured in the rioting but insisted policing was now a devolved issue and it should be left to politicians in Northern Ireland to "give the lead" in dealing with the violence.