Union flag protestors gather at Belfast City Hall over decision to fly it on designagted days

Union flag protestors gather at Belfast City Hall over decision to fly it on designagted days

TALKS are underway in Wales this afternoon in an effort to foster better relations betwen the PSNI and the communitis in Northern Ireland.

The PSNI is hosting the two-day conference in Cardiff at its own expense.

The meeting is being attended by around 25 delegates including senior policing figures, politicians and community representatives.

Members from the main political parties, Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Policing Board are due to participate.

Loyalist community representatives taking part include Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader Jackie McDonald and Winston Irvine of the Progressive Unionist Party, the political representatives of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Senior Irish republican Sean ‘Spike’ Murray is also taking part.

Other delegates include the former moderator of the Presbyterian church in Ireland, the Rev Norman Hamilton.

The discussions will be led by facilitators from the University of Ulster and Stanford University in California.

The PSNI said the aim of the talks is to “discuss opportunities to develop police and community relationships and to build effective partnerships which will help support communities and policing”.

It is hoped the talks will promote sustainable engagement between police and the community and identify actions and understanding during heightened community tension.

At first it was thought the talks were aimed at resolving contentious parading issues as th marching season approaches.

However, during a press briefing on Thursday, senior police chiefs said the issues under discussion would be more wide-ranging.

They said that the conference was about bringing people together to have private conversations about policing strategies at a community level.

Following the decision in December by Belfast City Council to only fly the Union flag on designated days, protests and violence erupted across Northern Ireland.

It damaged community relations at grass roots level in mainly loyalist working class areas.

Police bosses hope the two day conference will allow cross community representatives to rebuild relationships and open up new channels of communication

The total cost of the trip, including flights and four-star hotel accommodation, is £26,000.

But the PSNI say is a small amount considering the flags dispute has cost the police around £23 million.



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