Thursday 12 December 2019

PSNI arrest six men in connection with flag protest violence

Lesley-Anne McKeown

POLICE in Northern Ireland have today arrested six men in connection with the recent rioting over flags.

The men, aged between 18 and 49, were detained in Newtownabbey, Greenisland, Carrickfergus and the greater Belfast areas.

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said 124 people had been arrested since the protests began last month. A total of 88 people have been charged with public order offences.

Yesterday, loyalist paramilitary chiefs in east Belfast joined community leaders and clergy to call for an end to the violence which has dogged parts of Northern Ireland since December 3.

More than 100 police officers have been injured in the disorder which erupted after a decision by councillors in Belfast to restrict the number of days the Union flag is flown over the City Hall.

Thousands of leaflets appealing for calm were handed out in east Belfast which has seen the worst of the trouble.

However, the flyers do not demand a halt to the protests and road blocks that have caused serious disruption for motorists.

Loyalists are planning further pickets including another rally outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday.

Meanwhile, struggling traders have launched a campaign inspired by the Snow Patrol hit Take Back the City to entice people into the shops, bars and restaurants.

The drive has been endorsed by the band's frontman Gary Lightbody who used his Twitter account to say: "Very proud our song about Belfast is being used as part of the campaign for peace and sanity."

Yesterday the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Irish foreign minister Eamon Gilmore welcomed the calls for peace.

PA Media

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