Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Police given community backing

Weeks of sporadic loyalist rioting in East Belfast followed December's decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall

Police and community leaders in Belfast have agreed to resolve their differences through talking and non-violence.

Some protests against restrictions on the flying of the Union flag in Belfast and tensions over loyal order parades exploded into trouble at flashpoint parts of the city.

Two days of wide-ranging discussions were held in Cardiff involving senior Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers, politicians and representatives from loyalist and republican communities.

Delegates agreed to keep lines of communication open, especially during periods of tension, and declared support for the police.

The talks were an attempt to improve relations between police and the communities. Resolving issues around parades, flags or interfaces were not on the agenda.

PSNI assistant chief constable George Hamilton said: "The recognition that this statement of support for the PSNI and support for us in our responsibility to uphold the law is a good thing.

"After the protests of the winter tensions were high and relations with the police were bad. Now people in positions of leadership coming out to say that they support the police service is a very positive thing.

"We are hoping that will give people an increased confidence in police."

The senior officer said police had agreed that in major events they will outline very clearly the general principles around which they are going to be conducting the operation so there are no surprises.

An agreed statement from participants said the conversations were candid, honest, and worthwhile. "The event was positive and we intend to continue the discussions we began here," it added.

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