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Union flag protesters set for four year anniversary vigil at Belfast City Hall

A group of flag protesters are set to gather in front of Belfast City Hall on Saturday for the fourth anniversary of the dispute.

The flag protests started in December 2012 following a vote by Belfast City Council to limit the number of days the Union flag flew from Belfast City Hall from all year round to just 21 statutory days.

Sinn Fein had proposed stopping flying the Union flag completely from City Hall, while the Alliance Party suggested a compromise motion that the flag be flown only on statutory days.

Initially the protests against the decision attracted large numbers of people and some were associated with violence after a number of Alliance Party offices were attacked and Alliance elected representatives were threatened.

A very small number of loyalists still protest every Saturday afternoon at the front gates of City Hall about the decision.

Saturday will be the fourth anniversary of the protests.

Sandy Row community activist Billy Dickson issued statement on Friday evening to mark the occasion.

"Belfast City Council took a decision on Monday 3rd December 2012 to take down the Union Flag and limit the days it should be flown in the year," he said.

"This was seen by many Loyalists as the final straw in a long list of grievance felt by them who believed that their British Identity and culture was being eroded.

"Loyalist anger came to a boiling point and many felt the need to do something, especially following the distribution of 40,000 Unionist leaflets, delivered throughout the city by the DUP/UUP. The wording on the leaflet stated that the Union Flag was being 'ripped down;.

"It was not surprising that serious violence following the council's decision, and because there was little or no political leadership, the flag protesters were left to carry on their protests independently.

"Despite the trouble at early protests the vast majority since then have been peaceful. The 30 to 40 protesters who gather every Saturday are determined to continue on with the protest. Over the last 4 years, thousands of photographs have been taken by tourists of the protest and many have asked what the protest is about.

"The protesters are not part of any organisation, but are a group of individuals who believe the protest should continue indefinitely."

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