Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist flag protesters 'target Stephen Nolan'

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Television and radio presenter Stephen Nolan could be targeted by Union flag protesters.

Loyalists have been using social media websites to organise a picket outside BBC offices in Belfast city centre as part of their opposition to restrictions on the flying of the Union flag.

They are planning to stage a protest outside Blackstaff studios while the Stephen Nolan television show is being filmed tonight.

They claim they are unhappy with some material broadcast by the corporation.

A number of protests across Belfast last night passed off without incident.

Roads in the north and south of the city were blocked and bus services were disrupted but there was none of the serious violence has erupted recently.

More than 100 police officers have been injured since the protests started on December 3 when Belfast city councillors voted to limit the number of days the Union flag is flown over City Hall.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore will travel to Belfast tomorrow to discuss the ongoing flag controversy with First Minister Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Officials from the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs visited St Mattews Church and residents in the Short Strand community who were attacked on Monday and reported the local situation back to him.

Mr Gilmore said he will be unable to visit the area himself tomorrow but intends to do so in the near future.

"I am concerned by reports from my officials that last night's attack on houses in the Short Strand was premeditated and I utterly condemn it," he added.

Earlier, the Northern Ireland Assembly debated the flags issue and associated disorder.

East Belfast MLA Michael Copeland called for people to step back.

"We need to give some serious thought to where this is going," he said.

"Given the intensity of the violence over the weekend I fear that it is only a matter of time before someone loses their life.

"East Belfast needs some breathing space and I once again urge all those engaged in violence on both sides to stay at home."

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