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.


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