Loyalists call for end to flag violence

Loyalists call for end to flag violence

Loyalist paramilitaries are backing an appeal for an end to the violence in east Belfast, following six weeks of flag protests.

A leaflet campaign calling for no more disorder was launched in the area on Thursday, with a direct appeal made for an end to the scenes of unrest.

It follows street violence which erupted in the Short strand area on Saturday following a demonstration outside Belfast City Hall.

The message on the leaflet states: "The people of East Belfast plead that those involved in the current rioting to stop now. We would add that those who come into the area to riot and cause disturbance are not welcome.

We who live, work or have a vested interest in East Belfast may have our differences of opinions about many matters, but we are UNITED in our determination to stop this community from suffering further

'Stop The Violence' leaflet

"The rioting does absolutely nothing to promote any cause, but rather is damaging this community and causing further suffering. There have been issues with the PSNI and their tactics, however these have and continue to be raised and dealt with at the highest level.

"The undersigned have their individual views about the current protests, but all the signatories support the right to peaceful legal protests. This plea is about stopping the pointless violence; fear and wanton destruction being caused by a few."

More than 100 police have been injured by petrol bombs and other missiles during street violence since the vote by Belfast City Council was taken in early December to restrict the number of days when the Union flag is flown from City Hall.

The Red Hand Comrades Association, the Progressive Unionist Party, Ballymacarrett District LOL, Westbourne Presbyterian Community Church and a number of community groups were amongst the 41 organisations to sign their name on the leaflet.

Talks between loyalist leaders and community representatives were held in east Belfast on Thursday, with further calls made for an end to the trouble.

Westbourne Presbyterian minister Mervyn Gibson said he hopes the relationships which have been built across the divide in recent years can pave the way to a resolution.

"We have been here before," he said.

"I believe there were relations built over the years which hopefully will see us through over the coming months and years."

Mr Mason said he hopes the widespread endorsement of the call for peace can be a turning point in the dispute.

"Everybody is coming together collectively and saying this must stop," he said.

"We hope it is a turning point."

© UTV

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