Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

As the flags row shows no sign of ending, what does the First Minister Peter Robinson see happening?

Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
Police clear road of debris on the lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2013 - Trouble breaks out on the lower Newtownards Road this evening.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 7th January 2013 - Trouble breaks out on the lower Newtownards Road after loyalists protested in Belfast city centre this evening as the monthly meeting of Belfast City Council takes place inside Belfast City Hall.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A burned out car during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
Police on patrol during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI officers in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest. A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Loyalist protesters block of the Newtownards Road Belfast where shots are reported to have been fired on Saturday January 5 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist Protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013. Ongoing protests and demonstrations continue at the removal of the Union flag from the city hall. The protest was largley peacfull with only minor skermishes.Picture Mark McCormick.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards after a Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Willie Frazer at loyalist protests near Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Willie Frazer talks to Sara Girvin as loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
SNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards t
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards road, Belfast January 5 2013
Castlereagh Street area of east Belfast following loyalist rioting January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police have been targeted by rioters
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Carrickfergus flag protest. January 2, 2013
Carrickfergus Flag Protest, January 2 2013.
Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been protesting since councillors in Belfast voted to limit the number of days they fly the Union flag
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Jackie McDonald has warned that loyalist protests cannot succeed in having the Union flag reinstated above Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalists block the Sandy Row area of Belfast as part of a mass protest over flags
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and First Minister Peter Robinson were among those holding talks about the Union flag dispute in Belfast
Loyalists protesting around the village area in south Belfast December 17 2012
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalists taking part in a protest over the restrictions of flying the Union flag protesting outside Belfast City Hall
Up to 1,000 people took part in the cross community Peace Gathering in Belfast city centre
Loyalists in Belfast have been protesting against a decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag will fly from City Hall
Protest outside the Alliance Party office in East Belfast belonging to Naomi Long, following the decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the union flag every day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 4, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Flag. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a flag protest
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall

Peter Robinson answers questions from Liam Clarke

Q Who is invited to the Unionist Forum?

A We have invited people who have a mandate and an established position within the unionist community. The fact that there are a number of views beyond those groups mean that we will be taking the opportunity, through a task force, to take in the wider viewpoint.

Q Was the Belfast flag vote a democratic decision?

A I think it was a bad decision but it was a bad democratic decision and will only be changed by a good democratic decision. I don’t see the present council reversing it. That is why we need to increase voter representation and turnout in unionist areas. You can’t complain about decisions unless you vote.

Q Is this a winner-takes-all situation depending on who has a council majority?

A Some people say that if Belfast can take a majority vote so can Lisburn, and you have the thing rolling out that way. That is why it is important that we have a unionist position so we can then discuss it with some other parties.

Q In the absence of an agreed approach, will you advise councillors not to score victories where they can?

A I will give advice to councillors and it is important I give that advice to them directly. We need to reach agreement, where possible, within the broader unionist community and also with other parties.

Q Are you prepared to negotiate on flags with non unionists?

A I met with David Ford yesterday, I also met with Alasdair McDonnell and have had a number of conversations with Martin McGuinness. I will meet with him this week. Once we get a more coherent position within unionism we still have to deal with the people we share the province with and we have to come to arrangements.

Q Surely we shouldn’t have such a major crisis over a vote on a council?

A If anyone thinks it is just a few protesters out in the streets who are angry about the flag coming down then they don’t understand the unionist psyche. The overwhelming majority of unionists are very angry but they are moved away from protest by the violence.

Q Can protests change the position on flags?

A Protest draws attention to an issue, politics changes the issue. If there is going to be change it will be through the political process and that means engaging with everyone. People must realise you cannot change the number of days a flag is going to fly in Belfast City Hall by throwing a petrol bomb at a policeman. That will not have any effect on it at all. The people who are throwing petrol bombs at the police are not part of the process of which I am a part or who I have influence over.

QThen how will you connect with them?

A All you can ever do is show that you have a political way forward. People are invited to be part of that political way forward and if they don’t take it, it is a matter of policing.

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