Loyalist party told it has ‘got it wrong’ over Union flag street protests
Leader firm in opposition to paramilitary violence and criminality
Loyalists confront police in Belfast after the City Council decided to fly the union flag on designated days only. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The Progressive Unionist Party has been told it has “got it wrong” over protests against the flying of the Union flag.
The small UVF-linked loyalist party was told by Irish News editor Noel Doran that the policy of protracted street protests, some of which ended in violence was counterproductive.
Mr Doran was the first representative from the wider nationalist community to be invited to address a Progressive Unionist conference.
He told some 140 delegates in Co Armagh at the weekend that the commercially damaging protests had added to a sense of incomprehension among many Catholics and suggested they look to the example of the GAA when it came to community-based involvement and initiatives.
Mr Doran was supported in this by Belfast councillor John Kyle who said delegates had to consider approaches other than simple protest about the issues of the day.
Party leader Billy Hutchinson said: “Unionism remains divided and one of the key tactics of Irish republicanism has been to isolate loyalism from mainstream unionism. “Today the Progressive Unionist Party reiterated its commitment to unionist unity, recognising that this is the best way to maintain the Union while also addressing in partnership the complex issues that affect our most disadvantaged communities.”
Referring to his party’s vote in support of gay marriage and of moving grammar school selection from age 11 to age 14, the party leader said this was symbolic of its strong support for “socially progressive policies”.