More Belfast protests in flag dispute
There was widespread traffic disruption in Belfast tonight as loyalist protests over a dispute about the Union flag continued.
Demonstrators blocked a number of routes at rush hour to voice their anger at last week’s decision to reduce the number of days the flag flies over City Hall.
Tonight, police said a 24-year-old man had been arrested for disorderly behaviour and obstruction of a road in the Ormeau road area in south Belfast.
He was released pending a report to prosecutors.
Since the flag controversy first flared, there have been 39 arrests and 29 police officers have been injured.
The protests were held as the leaders of the two main unionist parties met with loyalist representatives to discuss the on-going situation.
Violence has flared at a number of demonstrations in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland during the last week-and-a-half.
A police officer was subject to a murder bid by a loyalist gang and a number of elected representatives have received death threats.
The cross-community Alliance Party has borne the brunt of loyalist fury after it voted with Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Belfast City Council to limit the flying of the flag.
East Belfast Alliance Party MP Naomi Long has received a death threat from loyalists, while senior Democratic Unionists Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots
have been threatened, apparently by dissident republicans, after speaking out in favour of flying the Union flag.
On Monday evening, a petrol bomb was thrown into the police car of the female officer who was guarding the office of Mrs Long.
DUP leader and Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt met with loyalist groups this afternoon.
Afterwards, the parties issued a joint statement.
“Today’s meetings are part of a wider process of consultation and engagement and were a useful opportunity to discuss how we can move beyond protests and
work together in a more co-ordinated fashion to a longer-term strategic approach,” it said.
“Further meetings and discussions are due in the coming days and while understanding the frustration and anger being expressed it is important that
energies are channelled through conversations within the political process.
“We have discussed a number of possible options with the groups we have met today and we intend to urgently reflect on and develop the proposals.”