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Flag protests ruling brings apology from police chief

By David Young, PA

Northern Ireland's police chief has apologised to those inconvenienced by illegal Union flag protest parades after the Supreme Court ruled that officers did have the power to stop them.

Five Supreme Court justices in London ruled unanimously in favour of an unnamed resident of Belfast's nationalist Short Strand who had challenged the PSNI decision to allow the parades to proceed past the area four years ago.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said yesterday that he accepted the judgment in full.

"I apologise to the residents of Short Strand and to anyone else who was inconvenienced by this parade," he said.

Mr Hamilton noted that the Union flag demonstrations presented a "very challenging period" for the police, with officers at times having to respond to 80-100 protest sites across Northern Ireland.

"It is uncomfortable reading in parts for us, but actually it does bring some clarity to us and we will review how we handle unnotified parades in the future in light of this."

Mr Hamilton stressed the ruling did not mean police had to move in to stop all unnotified parades in the future.

"So this judgment is not saying every time there is an unnotified parade the police should stop it," he said.

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