ROUND TABLE talks aimed at trying to resolve the dispute over the Union flag have been adjourned until the New Year.
The leaders of the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP and the Alliance Party held face-to-face talks at Stormont Castle on Thursday.
Following the discussions, the party leaders issued a joint statement condeming the violence over the past three weeks, including attacks on police and threats to politicians which have been issued.
Following eight hours of talks, the meeting broke up and was adjourned until January.
The statement said: “Leaders welcomed the opportunity to meet and engage in a discussion of the events over recent days and weeks.
“Party leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the rule of law and the primacy of the political process and deplored violence, attacks on the PSNI, as well as threats to elected representatives.
“Recognising the importance of culture and identity within the community, and conscious of the impact on business, political leaders re-emphasised that their task was to find political solutions and to ensure peace and stability for the people of Northern Ireland.”
There has been unrest across the province over the past three weeks after Belfast City Council voted by 29-21 to only fly the Union flag on 17 designated days, much to the anger of loyalists.
Since then over 40 police officers have been injured and 42 people have been arrested and charged.
Several politicians have received death threats and business in Belfast has been disrupted in the busy run-up to Christmas.
The leaders continued: “The meeting was adjourned and will reconvene in the New Year to further discuss these matters.”
A number of protests have been held this evening.
However, police are bracing themselves for Friday, December 21 as loyalists plan to bring the province to a standstill as part of its ‘Operation Shutdown’ policy to highlight its anger over the flag issue.