Belfast Telegraph

Protesters add to woes of snow-hit commuters

By Michelle Smyth

Hopes that the Union flag protests may have been waning, following calls from loyalist paramilitaries to end the street demonstrations have proved unfounded.

In the seventh week of the Union flag dispute, the protesters were out in force again on Monday night at rush hour despite the freezing weather, closing many roads around Belfast as well as causing blockages in Londonderry and Antrim.

Protests have been ongoing across the province since the council voted in December to fly the Union flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days only.

As people struggled to make their way home in the perilous, wintry conditions, they also had to reckon with disruptions caused by protesters.

Eleven people were arrested on Monday night in connection with the protests.

In Derry's Waterside area three men were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a road and disorderly behaviour.

At the Knock dual carriageway in Belfast, six men and two women were arrested on suspicion of obstruction.

There were also reports that two protesters were hit by cars, one on the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast and one on the Knock dual carriageway.

It’s thought the vehicles were unable to stop because of the snow. There were no serious injuries reported.

East Belfast was the main area affected during Monday night’s ‘Operation Standstill’ protests, with closures at My Lady's Road, the Knock dual carriageway, the Albertbridge Road, Castlereagh Street and Mountpottinger Road.

West Belfast was also affected, with Browns Square and Cambrai Street near the Shankill Road being closed.

In south Belfast, the Lisburn Road was closed from Elmwood Avenue to Shaftesbury Square.

The Malone Road was also closed at Dub Lane as well as Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row.

Outside of Belfast, the Marine Highway at Carrickfergus, Ballyclare Square, the Coast Road in Glenarm, the Rossdowney Road in Derry and Fountain Hill in Antrim were all closed.

While the protests passed off peacefully, the reactions from those who were trying to get home from work were less than serene.

It took one man four-and-a-half hours to travel from Lisburn to Carryduff.

Disgusted, he said: “We had to be rerouted. Everyone just wants to get home.

“We have enough to deal with having to drive home in these treacherous conditions, the last thing we need are these people adding to the disruption.”

Laura Moore, from east Belfast, said: “Somehow being delayed by the snow is a lot less annoying than people blocking the roads.”

South Belfast DUP MLA, Jimmy Spratt said: “There shouldn't be any protests taking place.

“Talks are ongoing.

“This is the way forward and the time for protesting is now over.”

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