A LOYALIST protest outside Leinster House in Dublin on Saturday has been called off following talks with senior gardai.
Officers had drawn up contingency measures to cope with expected violence from dissident republicans. But they were unable to complete the arrangements until organiser Willie Frazer made contact.
Mr Frazer, who is chairman of FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives), was in touch with gardai yesterday through his associate, Barry Halliday, and agreed that he was giving short notice about a protest to be held on Saturday.
He decided to call off the protest but said he would talk to gardai in the coming weeks about a future demonstration in the capital.
It is believed that some of Mr Frazer's supporters thought he had gone public prematurely about the planned protest without consulting all of them.
He had announced that three busloads of his supporters would travel to Dublin to ask that the Tricolour be lowered over Leinster House. He was not aware that the flag would not be flying on Saturday as the Oireachtas was not sitting.
The aim of the protest was to highlight the controversy that has arisen in Belfast over restrictions on flying the union flag over City Hall and the subsequent violence on the streets of the city.
Mr Halliday said later that the protest had been put on hold as a result of the discussions with gardai.
Garda management said in a statement that the discussions had been positive and constructive. It said the gardai facilitated any peaceful protest and fully recognised the group's democratic right to do so.
The statement added: "We also recognise the right of others to go about their lawful business and the day-to- day needs of the business community and local residents."
The Union flag was raised over Belfast City Hall yesterday for the first time since the council decision and this was to mark the 31st birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Northern Ireland enjoyed its first night of calm in almost a week last night when protests at the removal of the British flag from Belfast City Hall passed off peacefully.
The flag is set to be raised on only 16 more days this year and community workers have warned that more efforts may be needed to ease the tensions, which have led rioters as young as 11 to pelt police with petrol bombs and fireworks.