Loyalist protest planned for Dublin 'put on hold'

Thursday 10 January 2013 21.33
The Union flag was raised over Belfast City Hall this morning
The Union flag was raised over Belfast City Hall this morning

The chairman of the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives group has said Saturday's planned loyalist protest in Dublin will not take place as scheduled.

Barry Halliday, who was assisting loyalist activist Willie Frazer in organising the protest, told RTÉ News that it had been "put on hold" following contact with gardaí.

Mr Halliday said gardaí were happy to facilitate a protest this weekend, but pointed out that such short notice might cause problems.

Mr Frazer said he had discussed arrangements with senior gardaí and a face-to-face meeting is planned for tomorrow.

He said: "They've been very professional on this whole issue. If they tell me they don't want us, we will not force ourselves. It's either a democratic right, or not. There cannot be 'if', 'but' or 'maybe'.

"We believe we are entitled to be there, but we will abide by whatever decision. We are not going down to break the law.

"They want to work with us. They want to facilitate this protest, but they've said they need more time to plan and organise and at the minute we are working with the gardaí.

"We want to work with them in a sensible manner. We are up for it. It is not a case of us driving down to Dublin and running around like a lot of head cases."

Mr Frazer had planned to bring around 150 people to Leinster House at midday on Saturday in a protest linked to the Union flag controversy.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Teresa Villiers welcomed indications that the protest is unlikely to go ahead.

Elsewhere, the Union flag was this morning raised over Belfast City Hall for the first time since a council decision not to fly it every day sparked protests.

The flag was flown to mark the 31st birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and was taken down this evening.

A sixth consecutive night of violence in east Belfast last night was brought under control by police, who maintained a presence in the Newtownards Road area overnight.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson described the disturbances in Belfast over the flag controversy as a setback.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Donaldson said: "Consensus politics has to be the way forward and I think what is happening in Belfast is damaging.

"It has set us back and is a reminder of the dark days of the past. We need to find a better way of dealing with these issues at local government level."

Loyalist paramilitaries have been blamed for orchestrating the violence, which is estimated to have cost more than £7m to police since it began early last month.