UDA in talks to end flag protests

Published Thursday, 13 December 2012
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UDA leader Jackie McDonald has been in talks with DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt to try to end the ongoing flag-related protests, UTV can reveal.

UDA in talks to end flag protests
UDA leader Jackie McDonald. (© UTV)

Demonstrations have been held across Northern Ireland for 11 nights running, ever since a motion was passed to restrict the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall to designated days.

"As I said to Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt, you can't tell the protestors anything - you have to ask them," Mr McDonald told UTV.

"You have to speak to them; you have to listen to them. We have to have dialogue with them, because they are angry."

While numerous peaceful protests have been held by loyalists, a number of areas have been subjected to violence and traffic disruptions when demonstrations resulted in blocked roads.

Concerns have also been expressed about the economic impact, particularly so close to Christmas.

The most important people to sort this thing out are the people who are organising the protests - they have to feel as if they're having some impact and getting some result.

Jackie McDonald

Mr McDonald says that he supports the protests 100%, but that he condemns any violence and also feels for the traders in Belfast who have been affected by disruption.

The UDA leader told UTV that one proposal being discussed is the setting up of a joint unionist-loyalist group or taskforce to find an agreed way forward.

"One taskforce might not be enough," Mr McDonald added.

"It has to be widespread and it has to be all inclusive, where nobody feels left out."

Mr McDonald met with the DUP leader on Monday, with MLA Nelson McCausland also present, before further talks also involving the UUP leader were held at Stormont Castle on Wednesday night.

Orange Order Chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson said he had met with Jackie McDonald and protestors in an attempt to "listen to everyone" to begin to deal with the issue.

He added that unionist politicians had shown leadership "as much as they can in the circumstances".

This is a ground roots force that has come out onto the streets. It was not organised by the loyal orders, it was not organised by the paramilitaries, it's not organised by political unionism.

Rev Mervyn Gibson

Rev Gibson added: "It is people feeling they are frustrated - they come to show that frustration."

He said his and the presence of other unionist representatives had ensured a peaceful protest at the east Belfast Alliance office on Tuesday night following an attack on police there on Monday.

"I think the protests portray an anger within the unionist community that's manifested itself on the street," he said.

Rev Gibson said the disorder was "ruining the cause" of those protesting.

"Any threat to any politician, any threat to police or indeed anybody is not justified, unequivocally should be condemned, and should be stopped," he said.

In response to a taskforce on the issue, he said he welcomed "whatever structure" would deal with the topic seriously.

"People need to know that someone's addressing the issues they are concerned about," he said.

"They need to know that it stops here, the dilution of their Britishness ... that's there's a strategy to deal with that. I think that people will then, at some stage, stop the protests if that's the case, and the sooner the better because the protests are only a symptom of the problem - the protests will not solve this.

"The only thing that will solve this is politics."

© UTV News
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70 Comments
Einstein in Belfast wrote (613 days ago):
The UDA leader told UTV that one proposal being discussed is the setting up of a joint unionist-loyalist group or taskforce to find an agreed way forward. "One taskforce might not be enough," Mr McDonald added. "It has to be widespread and it has to be all inclusive, where nobody feels left out." I am very glad, yes heartened, to hear Mr McDonald say this. No, seriously. He is going to set-up a taskforce, a "think-tank" which is going to be "widespread and it has to be all inclusive, where nobody feels left out" What's that you say? "It is NOT all-inclusive??"....Why ever not? Are you sure? "He doesn't include Catholics, to help 'solve' the issue". What...seriously?? You mean to say that Catholics will be "excluded" & that they WILL be "left out"?? What...once more...AGAIN?? Guress what? The Unionists are going to solve this matter all by themselves without regard of thought to anyone else, except for themselves. It's all about themselves, no one else, it always has been - all through this period of Unionist navel-gazing that's all they can see. They think no one else lives here. "Don't you understand yet? You are Catholics & neither matter nor count. Never did".
Jedi Knight in Millenium Falcon wrote (613 days ago):
Ah come on now Henry, use the force son!!
The big fellow in Australia wrote (614 days ago):
For all the people protesting about the Union Jack, why that flag should not fly outside any building,houses or streets because it stands for a thousand years of tyranny that's ruined languages cultures around the world and still doing today eg Iraq , Afghanistan palestine and while these illegal wars continue that flag has no place on any building for what it stands for
henry in north of ireland wrote (614 days ago):
@ yoda ryan, well ty for the invite and i would be only too happy to take up the offer of main speaker at your proposed meeting and as for reading your grass leaves...oops sorry, tea leaves, i will pass on that one due to it being outta my leauge but am sure you could come out of your puff puff pass mode and tell us all how it is in the world of yoda ryan and your words of wisom will be a comfort to us all in our time of need and leadership, BTW ryan....what time do you get out of school
gerard in belfast wrote (614 days ago):
this is never going to end. it will be something else after the flags. if the democratic vote does not work with this.then wat is the use off having a goverment in n.ireland.it would be easyer to fly the 2 flags every day off the year then no 1 can complain.but this is n.ireland and the so called gov-ment here is just a joke and its making the true people off this island weather they r protestant r catholic a joke. the people off this island voted for peace. but in 15yrs not much has change cause the same people r running this place that kept the troubles going the dup uup s/f and now the tuv. it will be the same here for my kids as it was for me nothing new
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