Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Rioters 'shame flag', says Villiers

Loyalists block roads in north Belfast as the ongoing flag dispute continues
Loyalists block roads in north Belfast as the ongoing flag dispute continues
A police car that was hit by a petrol bomb as a new outbreak of sporadic trouble occurred in parts of east and south Belfast
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car (left) was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
Loyalists took to the streets again in protest against a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast near Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
SNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
Loyalist protesters in Belfast city centre protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre protesting against restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers watch protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers leave Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market as loyalists arrive at the building to protest the removal of the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Oprotesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market is shut as protesters arrive at the building
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/12/12 Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union Jack flag earlier this week.Photo Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week

Loyalist rioters who wreaked chaos in Belfast over a dispute on flying the Union flag have only brought dishonour and shame to their cause, the UK Government said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers told the Commons there was nothing British about the "thuggish, lawless and despicable" behaviour that also saw a murder bid on a police woman and a death threat issued to East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long.

The Democratic Unionist Party said police have informed two of its senior elected representatives, and their family members, they have also been subject to death threats - though it is unclear whether they emanated from loyalists or republicans.

Disorder has broken out at loyalist protests organised against last week's vote by Belfast City Council to reduce the number of days the Union flag flies over City Hall. Thirty-two police officers have been hurt and almost 40 people have been arrested in eight days of violence.

"No one can be in any doubt about this Government's support for the Union and its flag, but those people engaged in the kind of violence we have seen in the past few days are not defending the Union flag," said Mrs Villiers. "There is nothing remotely British about what they are doing; they are dishonouring and shaming the flag of our country with their lawless and violent activities. They discredit the cause they claim to support."

She added: "There can be absolutely no excuse or justification for the kind of thuggishness and lawless behaviour; it is despicable, we condemn it unreservedly and it must stop immediately."

Despite calls from Westminster and across the political divide in Northern Ireland for an end to the demonstrations, fresh pickets were held in the south and north of the city.

Representatives of all unionist parties and independents in the Assembly met to discuss the fallout of the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall. They discussed a consultation process regarding the flying of the flag from Parliament Buildings, Stormont. In attendance were First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister, Ukip representative David McNarry and Independent David McClarty MLA.

Ireland's deputy prime minister, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, strongly condemned the return of violence to the streets of Belfast. He called for an immediate end to the intimidation of public representatives, in particular those of the Alliance Party and their families. He also condemned Monday night's petrol bomb attack on a female member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and described the recent wave of violence as "an attack on democracy itself that has no place in the politics of this island".

An 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with obstructing a highway. It followed a protest on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on Tuesday evening. Police are also appealing for information about an attempted hijacking of a car at a protest in Londonderry. The occupants of the vehicle were left shaken but unhurt.

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