Flags protest at Belfast City Hall

Published Saturday, 15 December 2012
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Around 1,000 people have taken part in a loyalist flag protest, which passed off without incident outside the gates of Belfast City Hall.

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They gathered in city centre from around 1pm on Saturday.

UTV reporter Marc Mallett, who was at the scene, said the protest group circled the building amid a heavy police presence.

No speeches were made and they later dispersed along Donegall Place.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson told a pocket of protestors to remain peaceful.

"We need to stand in solidarity with these people," Mr Hutchinson said.

"They came here for a peaceful protest and what I'm trying to do is make people understand that they need to stay legal in all of this.

"I'm not going to make promises to anybody but what I'm saying is we're going to try and put the flag back.

"It may have been a democratic decision by people in City Hall but I think the process was flawed."

I don't want to lead anybody up the wrong road but the idea is it might be back, but we will have to see.

Billy Hutchinson

Earlier, hundreds of people linked arms around City Hall in a peace vigil against the unrest which followed the council's decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag.

A large crowd also gathered at George Square in Glasgow in Scotland to voice their opposition to the decision on Saturday afternoon.

Last weekend Belfast city centre came to a standstill and the Christmas market was briefly closed as around 2,000 people protested.

This weekend the market has remained open. It has also been announced it will stay for an extra three days to make up for time lost.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said the PSNI has been doing all it can to prevent disruption to a busy day of shopping.

He added: "Today is one of the busiest days of the year in Northern Ireland's commercial and social calendar.

"Police are determined to do everything we can to ensure people are safe and can go about their lawful business.

"People have a legitimate and democratic right to peacefully protest in relation to this issue. Police are determined to ensure their rights are upheld and we remain fully committed to delivering a safe and secure Christmas for everyone."

Police said roads in city centre have now been reopened to traffic.

© UTV News
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96 Comments
Matt in Newry wrote (489 days ago):
I do wish e. in Ulster, would stop referring to the "Protestant people" asautomatically unionist or British. My Protestant relatives see themselves as Irish, green + orange = unity and peace.
the childrens future in belfast wrote (489 days ago):
@Helen..Stop blaming everybody else for the way you bring up YOUR child.Its up to YOU to teach YOUR child not to hate anyone!!! I was brought up in North Belfast during the Troubles and I don`t have a bigoted bone in my body...and neither to MY children.The reason??...My Parents brought me up that way and I give thanks everyday that they did.Now I`m doing the same with my children.It is possible to raise your children with understanding and love even with all these issues. x
Martin smyth in Belfast wrote (489 days ago):
Hi,I dont normally get involved in these discussions.But the way I see it is that to have a vote on something in the council chambers the councilors put forward a topic,motion a number of weeks before it accually happens.So why did the DUP and UUP. Wait until last week to cause a stink. Also I was wondering how many Loyalist people actually have a union flag outside their door.There,s not to many near me that,s for sure.Also while you are bringing babies on to the road blocks there are not to many DUP?UUP and a hand full of PUP.Makes you wonder Who is getting stuck up. [and its not a chimmey]. MERRY CHRISTMAS
David in Belfast wrote (489 days ago):
It seems to me that as usual the opinions of the moderate population of Northern Ireland are once again being sidelined, and a forum is being given to our loud spoken extremist minority. I think on the whole “normal people” are sick and tired of the current situation. Why must any attempt at progress and compromise end in such ugly bigotry? And if the flag does go back up again I for one will see it as a failure of democratic process and another win for the idiots and bullies that have been holding Northern Ireland back for years. (This is coming from a normally neutral person by the way).
Colin in Carryduff wrote (489 days ago):
S.B. I think you need to revisit the census figures and see what % of the 45 consider themselves Irish.
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