Sectarian divisions and violence could destroy efforts to boost the Northern Ireland economy, Theresa Villiers has said.
Speaking on the final day of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Northern Ireland Secretary announced a new ministerial taskforce to improve the fortunes of the private sector in the province.
But she warned: “It’s hard to see how Northern Ireland can reach its full economic potential while sectarian division continues to spill out on to the streets with disgraceful scenes of rioting and violence.
“The idea that British identity and culture can be defended by people who wrap themselves in the union flag and attack police officers with bricks and blast bombs and ceremonial swords is grotesque.
“We in this party have always stood four square for the rule of law and we condemn all those who seek to attack and undermine it, whether that attack comes from rioters who call themselves loyalists or from the lethal dissident republicans who continue to plot murder and mayhem.
“So we stand fully behind the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”
Announcing the package of support, Ms Villiers added: “I am setting up a new cross-Whitehall ministerial taskforce to make sure that we do all we can to ensure that vital finance gets through to businessmen and women in Northern Ireland, because it’s by backing their efforts, people who just want to work hard and do the right thing, that we’ll deliver the boost to the private sector that we all want to see in Northern Ireland.”