14/01/2013

Flag Violence Is 'Wrong' - UDA Man

Loyalist rioters who are violently protesting the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall are destroying their own communities and playing into Sinn Féin's hands.

This was the message from Jimmy Birch, a UDA man from east Belfast who was speaking to the BBC as part of a Radio Ulster documentary called 'Inside The Flag Protests'.

"Every time they call a tune, we take to the streets," he said.

"We are wrecking our own areas, we fight with the police, we are burning our own cars and we stop our own people going to work and coming home from work and disrupt our own people's way of life.

"It is wrong, we need to step back and we need to stop being predictable."

Mr Birch told the BBC that UDA members had been told not to take part in the violence which has broken out in some areas of east Belfast, since the City Council voted on 3 December to restrict the number of days the union flag can be flown from the top of City Hall.

Last weekend saw some of the worst violence since the Council’s decision.

About 500 people gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday to protest, which resulted in violent clashes with police and nationalists at the mainly Catholic Short Strand area.

Twenty nine officers were injured during a heavy, sustained attack. The PSNI discharged six baton rounds and deployed water cannon. Four officers were taken to hospital.

Mr Birch said he acknowledged the decision by Belfast City Council was a democratic vote and said politics was the only way forward.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are expected to meet the British and Irish governments this week.

Mr Robinson said he wanted to show that the majority of people in Northern Ireland respect the peaceful, democratic process.

Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce is to meet this week to discuss the effects of the ongoing protests on business.

(IT)

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