Stormont vow over peaceful future
Published 13/01/2013 | 03:55
Politicians in Northern Ireland have not given up on building a shared future, Stormont's First Minister has vowed.
Peter Robinson said the only way to end violence was through the political process. Almost 100 police officers have been injured during weeks of loyalist protest over the Union flag. A second peace rally was held outside Belfast City Hall on Sunday.
Mr Robinson said: "We took some difficult decisions, some might say historic decisions, to build a shared society in Northern Ireland. I think it is important to tell the wider community in Northern Ireland and our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom that we are not giving up on that."
Mr Robinson and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are due to meet with the British and Irish governments this week. The DUP leader said talks with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamonn Gilmore would address all outstanding issues.
The First Minister added: "We are very much of the view that we are determined that we build the kind of society where everybody can have a peaceful and stable existence."
On Saturday some of east Belfast's worst rioting broke out since Belfast City Council decided to restrict the flying of the flag from the City Hall to designated days like royal birthdays at the start of last month.
Sectarian clashes between loyalists returning from a city centre protest and republicans living in Short Strand were broken up by police, who braved bricks, fireworks and other missiles thrown from the angry crowd. They responded with water cannon and non-lethal baton rounds.
Around a thousand people attended a peace rally at Belfast City Hall on Sunday. Many young people and families joined the demonstration, but they pointedly stood on the pavement rather than blocking the road, a favourite tactic of loyalist protesters.
There were five minutes of noise - horns, shouting and whistling - to symbolise the silent majority speaking out, and a huge round of applause ended the gathering. One said: "It is about taking back the streets."
Police were advising motorists to avoid the area of Albertbridge Road and Castlereagh Street in East Belfast due to an ongoing protest. Police later said Castlereagh Street had reopened to traffic following the earlier protest.