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Expelled DUP councillor Ruth Patterson calls for 're-think' of loyalist flag protest on St Patrick's Day

By Claire Williamson

Published 19/01/2016

Ruth Patterson at a flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Ruth Patterson at a flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Ruth Patterson showing her support for the flag protesters in 2014

Hardline Unionist Ruth Patterson has called for those planning a St Patrick's Day flag protest to "re-think" their plans.

The former DUP councillor has been a strong supporter of the flag protests since the council voted for its removal from Belfast City Hall in 2012.

In November she was expelled from the party over an interview in this newspaper in which she lambasted the party leadership for parachuting junior minister Emma Pengelly into the Assembly seat vacated by Jimmy Spratt.

She will now stand against her as an Independent in the South Belfast constituency.

Her election campaign will be managed by Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

In a blog post ahead of the planned flag protest due to take place on St Patrick's Day she said there was no "strategic or political purpose" in the protest.

But insists she supports the continuation of the weekly Saturday protests.

A group calling itself Loyal People's Protest plans to stage a Union flag vigil outside Belfast City Hall for 12 hours.

Ms Patterson wrote: "From day one I have been an avid supporter of the Union flag protests and have strongly defended the right to peaceful and lawful protest.

"I do believe that protest is a form of drawing attention to the issue about which you protest, but ultimately grievances can only be properly addressed and changes made via the democratic political process.

Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
Tuesday 17th March 2015 - Flag Burning
Pictured is a republican youth burring a Union Jack flag that was stolen from a Flag Protester in Belfast
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Tuesday 17th March 2015 - Flag Burning Pictured is a republican youth burring a Union Jack flag that was stolen from a Flag Protester in Belfast Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
Youths in Donegall Place burn Union flag outside City Hall Pic: Johnny Caldwell @Johnny_Caldwell
Loyalist protesters at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre. Picture by Press Eye
Tuesday 17th March 2015 - Flag Standoff Pictured is Loyalist Flag Protesters and St Patricks day revellers at a stand off outside Belfast City Hall Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Loyalist protester at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre. Picture by Press Eye
Loyalist Flag Protesters and St Patricks day revellers at a stand off outside Belfast City Hall Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Loyalist protesters at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre. Picture by Press Eye
Pictured is Loyalist Flag Protesters and St Patricks day revellers at a stand off outside Belfast City Hall Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Loyalist protester at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre. Picture by Press Eye
Pictured is Loyalist Flag Protesters and St Patricks day revellers at a stand off outside Belfast City Hall Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Loyalist protester at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre. Picture by Press Eye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015.
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
Boyband 'HomeTown' play at Custom house Square
Boyband 'HomeTown' play at Custom house Square
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Highland dancers on stage Irish dancers on stage
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Highland dancers on stage
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Highland dancers on stage
Belfast Lord Mayor with Citybeat's Stephen Clements and Sara?Neil.
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th March 2015 - St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. Thousands of people descended on Belfast city centre today (17 March) to enjoy the city?s annual spectacular St Patrick?s Day parade and concert. Sandra and Trevor McKeeman Organised by Belfast City Council, the family-friendly celebrations were officially started by Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon who led the high-energy carnival parade, created by BEAT Carnival. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
St Patrick's Day Carnival parade and Concert in Belfast city centre. March 17 2015. Picture Presseye
People in Rome taking selfies in front of the ‘greened’ Colosseum.
Niagara Falls joins Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
Mussenden Temple and Venus, pictured by Glenn Miles
Coca-Cola London Eye on London's South Bank is lit green by Tourism Ireland to celebrate St Patrick's Day, which is on Tuesday 17th March.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patron celebrate St Patrick's Day at the Harbour View Hotel on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
The Great Wall of China joins Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
The Cibeles Fountain and Palacio de Comunicaciones in Madrid, illuminated in green as part of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
Christ the Redeemer illuminated in green to celebrate the upcoming Irish festivity of Saint Patrick's Day, atop Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patrons celebrate St Patrick's Day at the Orient Hotel on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patrons celebrate St Patrick's Day at the Orient Hotel on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
The Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, illuminated in green as part of Tourism Irelands Global Greening initiative, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London is lit green by Tourism Ireland in celebration ahead of St Patrick's Day, on Tuesday 17th.
Kayakers float on the Chicago River after being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The Allianz Arena, home to Bayern Munich, illuminated in green as part of Tourism Irelands Global Greening initiative, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, St Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada), joins Tourism Irelands Global Greening, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
The iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, illuminated in green as part of Tourism Irelands Global Greening initiative to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
Ciara Kelly photographs Gareth Maguire on a mobile phone by the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, south east London, which is decorated green by Tourism Ireland to celebrate St Patrick's Day, which is on Tuesday 17th March.
The Colosseum in Rome joins Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
The Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, south east London, is decorated green by Tourism Ireland to celebrate St Patrick's Day, which is on Tuesday 17th March.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patrons celebrate St Patrick's Day at P.J. O'Brien's Irish pub on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patrons celebrate St Patrick's Day at P.J. O'Brien's Irish pub on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Patrons celebrate St Patrick's Day at the Orient Hotel on March 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. March 17th commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating Irish heritage and culture. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Edinburgh Castle in Scotland illuminated green as it is among more than 100 international landmarks turning green to mark St Patrick's Day.
Glasgow's SSE Hydro Arena and Armadillo in Scotland illuminated green as they are among mo
Edinburgh Airport control tower in Scotland illuminated green as it is among more than 100 international landmarks turning green to mark St Patrick's Day.
Retired professional boxer Barry McGuigan at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
Bolivian traditional dancers take part in the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People dressed up at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A woman waves an Irish flag at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A group of girls at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 15, 2015. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People celebrate at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A girl holds an Irish flag at the front of a band at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People gather at Trafalgar Square at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A mobile figure of St. Patrick at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A bystander takes a photo of a elephant float at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
A woman waves an Irish flag at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A woman waves an Irish flag at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People dressed up at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A participant at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
People dressed up at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A woman enjoys the day at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
A woman enjoys the day at the Mayor of London's St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in London. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London is lit green by Tourism Ireland in celebration ahead of St Patrick's Day. Matt Alexander/PA Wire .

"With that in mind I would encourage the organisers of the St Patrick’s day protest to rethink their plans and divert their energy into seeking to make a change via the democratic process."

Addressing the weekly Union flag protest, she said while she supports them to continue, she wants those taking part to become more involved in the political process.

She said: "The Union flag protest has been a weekly Saturday event since December 2012. I think the time has come for those with such a clear passion for their cause to divert that energy into constructive and positive political activism.

"I do not think there is a strategic or political purpose in organising a protest on St Patrick’s day. Given Unionism regularly articulates opposition to pop-up Nationalist protests, which are designed to make expressions of Unionist culture contentious, I think it would do a great disservice to Unionism in general if our community were to be portrayed as purposefully seeking to be offended.

"I pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of those who have sacrificed much of their time in order to protest regularly to raise the inequalities currently being inflicted upon the Unionist community.

"And it is because of this that I believe that I - and indeed all the Unionist parties - owe it to these people to provide a political vision and avenue to air these grievances.

"I suspect big house Unionism would be more than happy to allow these people to protest forever and a day and simply dismiss or ignore them.

"I believe we are duty bound to offer an alternative, to recognise that protest has highlighted the issue but now to channel that commitment and energy into the democratic process.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph she added: "I am very happy for Saturday protests to keep going.

"The individuals involved have become very good friends with myself. I support their right to peacefully and lawfully protest. But I do believe that any protest strategy must ultimately provide a vision to offer a path from protest to political change.

"I would like to see them more involved in the democratic process and political process and to engage with politicians in order to make that change."

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