Thursday 14 December 2017

Loyalists vow Leinster House flag protests will be peaceful

A car burns during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
Police came under attack for a fourth night in a row
William Frazer

Luke Byrne and Anna Maguire

THE organisers of a planned demonstration in Dublin over the Belfast union flag dispute will keep the event small in the hope that it passes off peacefully.

Loyalist activist Willie Frazer has said the demonstration will take place outside Leinster House at noon on Saturday.

Mr Frazer told the Irish Independent that the 150 places available on the three buses that will leave from the North filled within a few hours of the announcement.

But he said that no further buses will be made available and that he hopes the protest can pass off peacefully.

"This is not about swamping Dublin or bringing 500 or 600 people down. It's about making our point in a peaceful manner," he said.

Mr Frazer has said Ulster loyalists will ask "sarcastically" that the Tricolour is lowered at the demonstration to give Irish people "a sense of how we feel".

But the demonstrators are likely to be disappointed. An Oireachtas spokesman confirmed that the flag will not be flying on the day of the protest.

The Tricolour only flies over Leinster House when the Dail or Seanad is in official session.

Mr Frazer's comments came as shots were fired at police officers in Belfast by loyalist protesters.

A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, while two others were also detained amid ongoing street disturbances.

And rioting erupted in East Belfast again last night, with thugs hijacking and burning a car on the Woodstock Link. A car was also burnt out on Castlereagh Street as riot police moved in to disperse protesters.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore condemned the attacks and said that the Government fully supported the efforts of Northern Ireland's elected leaders to resolve the flags issue.

"These attacks over the past three days are not the mark of legitimate protest but are the actions of a small group who want to bring Northern Ireland back to a darker past."

Meanwhile, a young mother and councillor has blamed "fascists" for an attack on her home. SDLP councillor Claire Hanna said seven shots were fired at her home from a high-powered ball-bearing gun last Thursday evening.

Ms Hanna, her husband and baby daughter returned from holidaying in the Republic to find three downstairs windows of their home shattered and their front door damaged.

The attack is being investigated by police. Ms Hanna said the "cowardly" attack had disgusted her.

Last month, expectant mother Christine Bower (27) and her husband Michael (26) – both of whom are Alliance councillors – were among a number of politicians whose homes were targeted amid violence.


Tonight sees Belfast city councillors meet for the first time since violence flared outside City Hall on December 3 – leading to five weeks of street protests and mayhem.

A council spokeswoman has said that an appropriate policing operation will be put in place ahead of tonight's meeting.

However, councillors said they were unaware if additional security measures would be deployed to prevent the scenes witnessed last month.

Rioting loyalists injured 15 PSNI members, two council security guards and a press photographer outside City Hall last month, when they tried to smash their way into Belfast City Hall after the vote to limit the flying of the union flag.

Irish Independent

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