Gilmore to meet NI politicians as rioting continues
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore will hold talks with Northern Ireland political leaders this week as efforts to halt the loyalist protests and attendant violence continue to prove fruitless.
As Northern Ireland counted the cost of the weekend “flags” violence in terms of police officers injured, people arrested and damage to the North’s international image a spokesman for one of the groups behind the demonstrations said loyalists would persist with their protests.
Willie Frazer, a spokesman for the Ulster People’s Forum, said there would be more street action tonight and in the coming days in Belfast and in other areas.
“The people have had enough,” said Mr Frazer yesterday, a day after the serious violence that flared in east Belfast leaving 29 PSNI officers injured, some of them requiring hospital treatment.
It was one of the worst days of trouble since Belfast City Council’s decision on the flag six weeks ago. Loyalists and nationalists clashed in the Short Strand area of east Belfast as hundreds of protesters were returning from a demonstration outside City Hall on Saturday afternoon. Police who moved in to break up rival groups came under sustained attack.
Of the protests generally and of loyalist refusal to work with unionist politicians trying to end the demonstrations, Mr Frazer said yesterday, “Anybody that knows anything about the Protestant people knows that when they decide they will not be controlled they will not be controlled. Nobody but nobody will tell them what to do whenever they rear up, and that’s what happened here.”
While the Unionist Forum was formed as a possible vehicle to rechannel loyalist anger over limiting the days the British union flag can fly at Belfast City Hall Mr Frazer said the protesters would not engage with the forum at this time.
Mr Frazer, who was the head of the Love Ulster rally in Dublin in 2006 that resulted in major rioting from those opposed to the event, engaged in a robust discussion with senior east Belfast loyalist Jim Wilson at the protest outside City Hall.
Mr Wilson told Mr Frazer that loyalists needed to end the violent protests and work with the forum which was established by First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt. Senior UDA figures also told BBC Radio Ulster yesterday that that the violent agitation must end.
“We have been talking to the politicians but they have betrayed us,” Mr Frazer said yesterday. He also rejected a further appeal from Mr Robinson yesterday for the protests to end. The First Minister said during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme the demonstrations would not lead to the union flag again flying atop City Hall all year round.
Mr Robinson said politicians were “not giving up” on creating a peaceful and stable society while adding that there was loyalist disaffection that must be addressed. “There are political issues and people that feel disengaged and people that feel if we are trying to build a shared future they are not getting their share,” he said.
Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt are to persist with the Unionist Forum which is addressing issues such as flags, parading and why there is such loyalist disaffection. Up to 1,000 people held a rally at City Hall yesterday calling for an end to the protests and violence.
police officers were injured in Saturday’s violence.
officers have been injured since the protests began.
people have been arrested, of whom 85 have been charged.
The estimated cost of policing the protests and violence.
The business Belfast has lost.