Tánaiste to join flag violence talks

The Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore will join senior politicians from Belfast and London next week to discuss the Union flag protests.

More than 40 days of road blocks and sporadic violence by loyalists have failed to produce a solution to the dispute over restrictions on the flying of the emblem.

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness will join Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and the Tánaiste, sources said.

The Tánaiste expressed concern in a statement released today at the attacks on police officers last night in the North.

Mr Gilmore said: "This violence is being orchestrated and those behind it are known criminals, intent on creating chaos.

"This has nothing to do with real issues around flags and identity in a shared society which are the subject of intensive political discussions at present."

The Tánaiste has spoken with Ms Villiers and with the leaders of the political parties in recent days and shared his concerns with Mr Robinson yesterday.

The demonstrations against Belfast City Council’s decision to hoist the Union flag from the City Hall only on designated days like royal birthdays have brought many parts of the North to a standstill.

Non-lethal baton rounds and water cannon have been used by the PSNI as they faced attack with petrol bombs, fireworks and other missiles in greater Belfast in recent weeks by children as young as eight.

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