HEATED DEBATE AT ASSEMBLY ON THE CARDS OVER FLAG VIOLENCE

 

 

Under threat east Belfast MP Naomi Long

IT will be standing room only at the Assembly on Monday as it holds a special sesssion to debate a motion condemning loyalist attacks on Alliance Party politicians’ homes and offices.

East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long and Councillor Laura McNamee were both forced from their homes as part of loyalist anger over a decision by Belfast City Council to only fly the Union flag on designated days.

It was a compromise motion to a nationalist and republican motion which wanted the flag banned from flying all year round.

Up to 28 police officers have been injured in rioting and, since Friday night, 19 people have been charged.

A motion agreed by the main parties calls for any further protests to be peaceful and orderly.

Up to 2,000 loyalists took to the street on Saturday for a peaceful flag waving protest around the City Hall.

Some minor trouble erupted afterwards on the Newtownards Road following the parade.

However, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson accused the police of using “heavy handed tactics” in dealing with the trouble.

We haven’t gone away, Jim Dowson tells on Saturday

Belfast Daily revealed on Saturday that one of those who addressed the crowd was a former right hand man to BNP leader Nick Griffin.

We revealed that Dowson, a fervent anti-abortion campaigner, spoke to the crowd on a loud hailer telling them: “We haven’t gone away you know.”

A series of protests followed the decision made by the council last Monday that the flag – which is flown daily at the city hall – should only be flown on certain days.

Nationalist councillors had wanted the flag at the city hall taken down altogether, but they voted on a compromise from the Alliance Party that it would fly on up to 20 days.

Afterwards, unionists accused Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party of attacking their cultural identity.

A loyalist crowd had gathered outside the city hall during the debate and there was a riot. A group of protesters forced their way into the back yard of the city hall and fought with police.

Since then there have been a number of protests across Northern Ireland. Some have been peaceful, but others have become violent.

The Alliance Party has said the main unionist parties bear some responsibility for stoking up the issue.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson had accused Alliance of “opening a Pandora’s box”.

Alliance Party office in Carrick torched by loyalist mob

UP leader Peter Robinson has remained critical of the decision by nationalists to seek the removal of the Belfast City Council union flag describing it as “divisive and provocative”.

But Mr Robinson also called for the recent violent attacks to stop immediately and said the flag protests should be suspended in the wider interests of creating a peaceful society.

Alliance leader David Ford had requested an immediate recall of the assembly after an attack on the home of two councillors in Bangor and the burning of an Alliance Party office in Carrickfergus on Wednesday.

Since then a death threat has been made against the party’s only MP, Naomi Long, and Belfast city councillor Laura McNamee was also advised to leave her home.

 

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