Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister are failing to provide leadership on ending tensions over controversial parades, a leading police officer said today.
The rebuke from Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Alistair Finlay followed 48 hours of violence around the Orange Order's July 12 parades which left 55 officers injured.
He singled out First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for criticism and said his officers had to carry the burden of continuing violence.
Police fired 70 baton rounds and used water cannon during riots, the worst of which took place last night in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast where nationalists protested against an Orange Order parade.
A female officer is stable in hospital after being struck on the head with masonry at the height of the Ardoyne riot.
Mr Finlay said more had to be done to end the tensions.
He said: "There are individual politicians working very hard on this, but are we seeing the joined-up government, are we seeing in this, this morning, after a very difficult night, very damaging for Northern Ireland, these images beamed across the United Kingdom and perhaps wider, are we seeing the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister stepping out to condemn this?
"And showing that they have a plan to meet this type of issue next time it comes round, rather than waiting until it inevitably comes around next year and it's the police who will form that human barrier attempting to keep the peace and keeping relationships building?
"I haven't heard from them, I didn't hear from them before the Twelfth of July... we didn't see joined-up, strategic leadership from politicians who are entrusted and voted for by the community to deliver a cohesive society."
He told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show that police were effectively being left to pick up the pieces and complained that political leaders had failed to put a long-term solution in place in the relatively small number of flashpoint areas where tensions around marches remain high.
He said of DUP leader Mr Robinson and Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness: "What I am saying is that I haven't heard them come out, and I think this is such an important issue for Northern Ireland, it has such a significance.
"It has an impact on the police service and the role of the police service in society and relationships.
"I think it's such a significant issue we should be seeing that leadership coming from those who we elect to provide governance in our society."
Sinn Fein and the DUP said their parties were working to ease tensions and had introduced measures aimed at tackling the marching issue.Reuse content