'Non-silence for peace' at City Hall

The peace rally at City Hall.

Over 1,000 people clapped, cheered and banged drums during a five minute "non-silence for peace" at Belfast City Hall.

Sunday, 16 December 2012
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Crowds gathered from around 11am on Sunday morning for the rally, which was in response to the trouble which has flared over flags in recent weeks.

Organisers said it was about "promoting peace and showing the world that Northern Ireland has moved on from the Troubles".

Up to 1,200 people clapped, chanted, cheered and banged drums - while motorists took part by tooting their horns - in a bid to send out a peaceful message.

It lasted for around five minutes before the gathering dispersed at 12am.

People of all ages and from all communities took part in the event, which was promoted through social networking sites and had the permission of the PSNI.

Organiser Paul Currie, an artist from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, said: "This was a call for legal gathering of the people of Northern Ireland to show our neighbours and the world once and for all that we are not about two communities at war, but that Northern Ireland has moved on."

The peaceful silent majority need to be heard too.

Organiser Paul Currie

"Northern Ireland is about many nationalities and religions, colours and creeds living peacefully together. This is not about a flag it is about peace and freedom."

It was the second peace rally in as many days, after several hundred people - including church leaders - linked arms around City Hall in an early morning vigil on Saturday.

PSNI Superintendent John McCaughan commended everyone involved in the two rallies.

He said: "I was greatly heartened by the dignified and responsible way in which these events were conducted and marshalled and I would like to praise all of those involved, especially the organisers and stewards whose contribution was greatly appreciated."

The street violence over the past fortnight has followed Belfast council's decision to stop flying the Union flag from the building all year round.

The latest in a series of protests saw around 1,000 loyalists demonstrate peacefully in city centre on Saturday amid a heavy police presence.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said the process surrounding the removal of the flag was "flawed" and "illegal" and suggested it may be possible to challenge the decision to put it back.

Meanwhile the UUP and DUP said they hope to reveal an initiative to defuse the flag protests on Monday.

Forty people have been arrested so far in connection with the disorder - according to the PSNI, 28 of them have been charged with a range of offences, including rioting, disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and assault on police.

Almost 30 police officers have been injured, meanwhile a number of politicians have been subjected to death threats.

It is believed more flag protests have been organised for next week.