Belfast Telegraph

Small loyalist flag protest in Belfast passes off peacefully

By Deborah McAleese

A small loyalist flag protest in Belfast's main shopping area on a busy pre-Christmas Saturday passed off peacefully.

Around 200 people marched through the city centre to mark the second anniversary of the council's decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag from the top of City Hall.

The protest was organised by a group called Loyal People's Protest, which had notified the Parades Commission that 6,000 people would take part. However, the commission said it had taken traders' concerns into account and reduced the march to 500 people.

In its determination, the commission said it had received information that the "notification of such large scale parades on Saturday afternoons has caused concerns amongst bodies representing commercial interests in the city".

In December 2012 Belfast City Council voted to limit the flying of the flag at the building to designated days, sparking several nights of rioting and months of street protests. Dozens of police officers were injured and scores of people arrested.

The unrest also saw the Alliance Party targeted, including a death threat against East Belfast MP Naomi Long and councillors' homes and offices attacked in counties Antrim and Down.

Nationalists had wanted the flag taken down altogether, but voted instead for a compromise from Alliance that it would fly on designated days, like at Stormont.

Unionists said they considered the changes to be an attack on their cultural identity. The flag is now only flown on 18 designated days.

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