Loyalists expected to hold off on Dublin rally
Loyalists appear to have decided not to go ahead with a rally in Dublin on Saturday which was to be held in tandem with the protests in the North over restrictions on flying the British union flag over Belfast City Hall. About 150 loyalists were planning to demonstrate outside Leinster House at noon.
Unionist campaigner William Frazer said yesterday there had been “very constructive” communication with the Garda and that his group would “now be travelling down on a date in the near future to discuss our many concerns around IRA collusion and many other issues”.
Mr Frazer added: “I also wish to go on record as welcoming the recognition of the Garda Síochána as to our right to peaceful protest in Dublin and the accommodating measures they were putting in place for us, the protesters and concerned citizens of Ulster.”
The Garda press office confirmed that senior Garda management were in communication with a representative of Mr Frazer yesterday. “These discussions were both positive and constructive.”
Mr Frazer was one of the leaders of the so-called Love Ulster rally in Dublin in February 2006, which degenerated into serious rioting in the city by protesters opposing it.
Among the current group’s demands are that the Tricolour be lowered from Leinster House. Mr Frazer admitted, however, that there was a “tongue in cheek” element to the demand. “I would expect the Irish people to say, ‘who do they think they are telling us to get the flag down?’ But that’s what happening with us here in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Meanwhile, the first meeting of the Unionist Forum is being held at Parliament Buildings, Stormont today. It was formed by First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt to positively redirect loyalist anger over the flags issue.
All unionist parties including the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the UVF and some of whose members were involved in the flag disturbances, were invited to today’s meeting. The forum is to tackle issues such as flags, parading, deprivation and educational underachievement in the unionist community, strengthening British cultural identity, and persuading more unionists to vote.
Meanwhile, Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, in a speech to the University of Ulster in Belfast last night, moved to provide some reassurance. “To those who are worried that their Britishness is being eroded – I’d say that Northern Ireland’s position within the UK is arguably more secure than it has been for decades,” she said.