Loyalists to take flag protest to Dublin

Loyalists protesters in Belfast city centre last month demonstrating against new restrictions on flying the Union flag over City Hall.Picture: PA

More than 150 loyalists are set to descend on Dublin next week demanding that the Government remove the Tricolour from Leinster House.

Angry protesters say they are offended by the flag and want it removed from the Houses of the Oireachtas.

It comes after more riots broke out in Belfast last night over Belfast City Council's decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag at City Hall.

The protest in Dublin takes place on January 12th, but organisers said they don't want any trouble to break out.

Spokesperson for the Ulster People's Forum William Frazer said they want the Irish people to understand where they are coming from with the flags issue.

"Under the Good Friday Agreement we were promised that this would remain part of the United Kingdom," Mr Frazer said.

"Now we are continually told to move on, and that this is an island of equals," he added.

"If that's the case, how do the people in Dublin feel when we come down and ask them to take the flag off the capital in their country? Very annoyed, I would say.

"We believe that the only way that people can recognize what we are asked to do, and how we feel, is whenever the same is done on themselves."

Gardaí said they have yet to receive a request from for permission to hold a demonstration outside Leinster House.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has not received notification of the proposed march, but Gardaí said any request will be considered in light of recent history, and potential threat to public order.

A risk assessment will be carried out before a decision is made on the planned demonstration, a Garda spokesperson said.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has described violence against the police by loyalist protesters as "a disgrace".

Mr Robinson said those behind days of unrest were playing into the hands of dissident republicans.

Last night ten police officers were injured in East Belfast during a demonstration against the decision to reduce the number of days the union flag is flown from Belfast city hall.

Mr Robinson said: “The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified.

“Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims.”

He said some demonstrators were employing language borrowed from the republican handbook to demonise police and undermine the DUP through a call for direct rule from London.

“All right-thinking unionists will want to channel their energies into political activity and to support the cause of finding political solutions to the problems that we face,” Mr Robinson said.

“In Northern Ireland the ballot box has primacy and is the only vehicle for choosing the people’s representatives.”

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