Appeals for calm after more loyalist protests


As loyalist protests continued last night, unionist leaders deplored a decision by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance to prevent a meeting of the Assembly Commission being held to discuss extending the number of days the British union flag can fly at Stormont.

Loyalists again staged protests in north, south and east Belfast against the decision by Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance members of Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag over City Hall from all year round to 15 designated days.

A DUP spokesman said two senior members of his party - Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots - had also received threats. “These are being taken very seriously and their security is being reviewed.”

There were numerous appeals for calm and an end to demonstrations yesterday. Business people in Belfast complained that the protests, violence and disruption were damaging the local economy and putting off tourists from visiting the city. “The traders and business people of Belfast have a difficult enough time without suffering further losses,” said Joe Jordan, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

The Presbyterian moderator Dr Roy Patton said actions such as the petrol-bombing of a car with a woman police officer inside had no place in society. PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott called for some reflection rather than recrimination from politicians. “What we need now is for people to get right behind the police.”

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary of State,

Theresa Villiers condemned the “thuggish and lawlawless” behaviour of loyalist protesters.

“The people engaged in the kind of violence we have seen in the past few days are not defending the Union flag,” she said. “There is nothing remotely British about what they are doing. They are dishonouring and shaming the flag of our country through their lawless and violent activities. They discredit the cause that they claim to support.”