Loyalists flag protest passes off peacefully

Monday 17 December 2012 11.38
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Loyalists marched through Belfast city centre
Loyalists marched through Belfast city centre
Peace campaigners held a vigil outside Belfast City Hall
Peace campaigners held a vigil outside Belfast City Hall

A loyalist protest over the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall has passed off peacefully.

Loyalists have staged protests across Northern Ireland since 3 December over a decision by Belfast councillors to reduce the number of days the flag is flown over the city hall.

Disorder has erupted at a number of the pickets and almost 30 police officers have been injured during the trouble.

However protesters, who had been warned by the PSNI that law breaking would not be tolerated, dispersed peacefully after the demonstration.

Earlier, several hundred people formed a human chain around Belfast City Hall in response to recent street violence over the union flag controversy.

They linked arms and prayed for five minutes during the vigil.

A number of church leaders were among those taking part.

Organiser Andrew Masters said the event sent out a powerful message that people in Northern Ireland supported peace.

He said: "We feel that this year has been in many ways incredibly positive through the 'Our Time Our Place' (tourist board campaign).

“But, what the past ten days have shown us is that we have come so far we still have quite a journey ahead of us."

East Belfast Alliance Party MP Naomi Long has received a death threat from loyalists, while senior Democratic Unionists Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots have also been informed of threats, apparently from dissident republicans, after speaking out in favour of flying the flag.

A number of councillors from the cross community Alliance Party have been advised by police not to return to their homes.

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