17/01/2013

Political Dialogue Must Replace Protests - Villiers

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has called for political dialogue to replace loyalist protests and find a solution to the issue of flags, emblems and symbols in Northern Ireland.

Ms Villiers was speaking following talks today with Northern Ireland’s First and deputy First Minister and the Irish Foreign Minister.

The meeting was held at Stormont to focus on the recent protests and violence over Belfast City Council’s decision to limit the flying of the union flag at City Hall.

Ms Villiers said both governments would continue to support politicians to unite communities.

She also remarked that the recent violence was indicative of underlying sectarian divisions within communities in Northern Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said the meeting had been positive and productive.

Ms Villiers was in east Belfast yesterday to meet residents affected by the violence in their own community and to reissue her call for all protests, including those which are peaceful, to stop.

The nationalist majority at Belfast City Council voted on 3 December to restrict the flying of the union flag at City Hall to designated days, in line with the rest of the UK.

But loyalists say the move is an attack on their cultural identity.

Since the vote was passed on 3 December, 102 police officers have been injured and there have been 116 arrests.

(IT)

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