Published Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Belfast City Hall decided last year to fly the Union flag less often. (© Pacemaker)
In sentencing David Boyd, 19, and Frank Aiken, 22, Judge David McFarland repeated the warning that anyone involved in rioting "had to expect to go to prison".
He accepted that both Boyd and Aiken got involved in rioting after attending a flag protest.
The Recorder of Belfast at Belfast Crown Court commented: "Perhaps those who organise these protests and call people onto the street should reflect that those who ... get swept up into the riot are the individuals who suffer the consequences."
He had earlier heard that Boyd, from Donegal Pass and Aiken, from Roden street, both in Belfast, had pleased guilt to rioting on 12 January.
Following a protest at City Hall over the Union flag, crowds of up to 200 loyalists were marching back to east Belfast when they attacked police lines close to Central Station.
There was then, the court heard, hand-to-hand fighting and missiles being thrown between opposing factions at the interface with the Short Strand, then more rioting at Castlereagh Street that evening.
The police had deployed water canon at certain parts of the day in an effort to quell the rioters who were attacking them with petrol bombs, fireworks and various missiles.
Boyd and Aiken, the court heard, were seen on CCTV footage throwing a few stones at police lines. When arrested and interviewed, they both confessed to attacking police and later pleaded guilty to a charge of riot.
Ordering the pair to serve half their sentences in custody and half on licence, Judge McFarland said there was "clearly a sectarian element" to the rioting during which 30 police officers had been injured and had caused a "substantial cost to the public purse".
© UTV News