10/12/2012

Assembly Session Held Over Flag Violence

A special session is being held in the Assembly today to debate a motion condemning the violence caused by the flag debate at Belfast City Hall.

Protests, both peaceful and violent, have been taking place across Northern Ireland since the decision was made to remove the union flag from Belfast City Hall and fly it only on designated days.

Last Friday saw riots breaking out in Belfast City centre, particularly in the Shaftesbury Square area. Saturday night saw the city centre return to normal, but violence continued in east Belfast.

Up to 28 police officers have been injured and since Friday night, 19 people have been charged.

The Assembly was recalled by Alliance Party leader David Ford following a spate of attacks on Alliance MLA and councillors’ homes.

The Alliance Party are accused by unionists of attacking their cultural identity after proposing the decision to fly the union flag only on designated days.

Nationalist councillors at Belfast City Council had wanted the flag removed altogether, but compromised by backing the Alliance proposal.

Last week the Alliance Party MP Naomi Long received a death threat over the issue.

Speaking at Stormont on Friday, Ms Long said: "I will not let that threat deter me from serving my constituents. I will not let it influence decisions that my party takes.

"We will take our decisions based on principles, based on furthering our beliefs and objectives in delivering a shared future and we will not be deterred from that by violent people.

"We need mature political leadership from those who, over this week, have been whipping up tensions, stirring up dissension and pointing fingers of blame at people on these issues."

David Ford had requested an immediate recall of the Assembly following the attacks.

Sinn Fein argued that an immediate debate at Stormont might exacerbate tensions.

Today’s motion condemns the violence and expresses sympathy with those attacked, injured or threatened.

(IT)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

06 March 2013
St George's Rent Request Dismissed
Belfast City Council has turned down a request from St George's market traders for two months rent free to compensate for lost trade during Union Flag Protests. The traders have noted their disappointment but have welcomed the councils plans not increase stall fees for 2014. Free rent would have cost the council just over £65,000.
05 February 2013
75% Believe Flag Protests Should Stop
Over 75% of people believe the union flag protests at Belfast City Hall should stop, according to the BBC. BBC Spotlight surveyed the public in an opinion poll on the continuing protests over the limiting of the flying of the union flag at City Hall. Belfast City Councillors voted on 3 December to restrict the flying of the flag to designated days.
20 February 2013
Crusaders Call For End To Flag Protests
North Belfast football club Crusaders have called for an end to union flag protests around their stadium, after a game against Cliftonville last Saturday was cancelled.
17 April 2013
SDLP Opposes Cenotaph Flag Proposal
The SDLP has said it is against the flying of the union flag over the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall, on the basis that it should be maintained as a shared space. An Equality Screening is currently taking place to decide the equality impact of flying the flag above the Cenotaph.
09 January 2013
Union Flag Raised Over City Hall
The union flag has been raised over Belfast City Hall to mark the Duchess of Cambridge’s 31st birthday. The flag was raised following a sixth consecutive night of rioting and violence from loyalist protesters, who are angry at the council’s decision to restrict the flying of the union flag in line with the rest of the UK.