DUP AND UUP PLAN PACT OVER UNION FLAG ROW AS PARTY LEADERS HOLD TALKS

First Minister Peter Robinson holds talks with UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

A DUP-UUP joint pact over the flying of the Union flag is on the cards.

On Monday evening, DUP leader Peter Robinson and UUP boss Mike Nesbitt met for an hour this evening to discuss the ongoing fall out from the decision to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall.

The leaders met to discuss a wide range of issues relating to Unionist culture and identity and agreed to work on a joint basis with a view to urgently bringing forward political proposals to address widespread concerns across the community.

Party spokesmen said further discussions will take place on Tuesday in order to finalise a strategy.

The talks were held as motorists in the Greater Belfast area faced major disrutpion as protestors gathered to voice their anger over the removal of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.

Two PSNI water cannon vehicles have been moved into the Village area of south Belfast.

It followed reports that a protest at the Broadway roundabout had “turned nasty”.

Protestors claimed trouble started because of “heavy handed police tactics” as the demonstration had been peaceful.

Masonry was thrown at riot squad police.

Police at Tate’s Avenue/Broadway roundabout on Monday night

Motorists are advised to avoid the area and take an alternative route home.

The Upper Newtownards Roadwas also blocked by around 200 protestors.

Shawsbridge Road was also closed between the Ramada and Belvoir Estate due to loyalist protest. Motorists should avoid the area if possible.

A protest by 70 people on the Ormeau Road passed off peacefully under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence and disrupted traffic resumed to normal.

Protestors were earlier pushed back down Annadale Embankment by police.

Police said protest also took place at Seymour Hill in Dumurry.

Demonstrators at a protest at the junction of Cambria Street and the Crumlin Road claim police are trying to heighten tensions.

A number of schools have let pupils out early so they can get home before the protests start and traffic starts to back up.

Those opposed to the removal of the flag are already gathering in Dundonald, east Belfast and Ballyclare, Co Antrim.

Protestors with banner in Ballyclare

In Ballyclare, protestors held up a banned saying: DUP/UUP Shame On Your Public Silence.

The PSNI say 140 people at protest the square. There are also protests at Donegall Road and motorists are being advised to avoid Glenmachin Street, Tates Avenue and the roundabout at Broadway.

There are around a dozen separate protests planned for Monday afternoon and evening.

They are:

4 pm – Broadway Roundabout Belfast,

4 pm – Cambrai Street/Crumlin Road;

4 pm – Ballyclare;

5 pm – Ballynafeigh, Ormeau Road,

5 pm – Dunmurry

5 pm – Limavady;

5.30 pm – Hesketh Road, north Belfast;

6 pm – Larne;

6. 30 pm – Ballycastle;

7 pm – Lisburn;

7 pm – Kilkeel;

7.30 pm – Armagh;

8 pm – Cookstown.

In the Assembly on Monday, First Minister Peter Robinson said people had the right to peaceful protest.

Union flag protest in Limavady

However, the DUP MLA said the protests of the Union flag should be suspended in the light of violence last week.

He was speaking during a debate on a motion condemning recent attacsk on the homes and offices of Alliance Party members.

Mr Robinson said the language of the motion recognised that people had he right to peaceful and democratic protests.

“People have no right to attack elected representatives just because they do not share the same views,” he said.

On Saturday, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the UVF and UDA were orchestrating some of the violence in the previous days.

“We’re now seeing senior members actively involved in orchestrating the violence,” said ACC Kerr.

However, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson, who accused police of using “heavy handed tactics” on Saturday on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, denied loyalist paramilitaries were involved.

“We do not accept this. The UVF and the Red Hand (Commando) are getting the blame for this,” said Mr Hutchinson.

“The PUP strategy is around making sure that this is unarmed resistance. People are disaffected, frustrated and angry.

“People are entitled to demonstrate but they should do it peacefully and in a dignified way.”

During the debate in the Assembly UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: “Anyone who attacks a police officer, an elected politician, or individual fails to understand the values that encapsulate the union flag.

“In doing what they did the rioters lost the very argument they were trying to promote.”

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said politicians needed to do more “than just condemn”.

Alliance leader and Justice Minister David Ford Alliance leader said the attacks directed towards the party were “horrific and frightening”.

“An immediate priority must be to find a means to accommodate different identities through a shared approach to symbols, even if that is perceived by some, as meddling with identity,” he said.

David McNarry of the UK Independence Party said the motion fell short “of expressing the full rigour of unionist anger aimed at those who combined to take down the union flag”.

The TUV leader Jim Allister strongly condemned the violence but accused Sinn Fein of using culture “as a new theatre of war.”

The motion was passed uncontested.

 

 

 

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