Belfast Telegraph

Loyalists hold St Patrick’s Day Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall

Loyalists have held a Union flag protest at Belfast City Hall on St Patrick’s Day.

Hours earlier thousands of people gathered for a St Patrick’s Day parade in the city centre.

Around six PSNI Land Rovers lined the middle of the road to separate the protesters and young people celebrating St Patrick's Day - many of whom were draped in Tricolour flags.

The loyalist protest stems from December 2012 when Belfast councillors voted to switch from permanent displays of the Union flag at City Hall to designated days.

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The decision - backed by Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance - led to two months of protests including street disorder and violent incidents. There were also attacks on the offices of Alliance Party councillors.

Alliance was blamed by loyalists since its representatives held the balance of power on the council, but the protests dwindled after the then DUP leader Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, along with other unionist leaders, set up the Unionist Forum.

A weekly protest held outside the gates of City Hall every Saturday afternoon attracted significant support from east Belfast, where large marches, which disrupted trade, were organised. The protests now attract just a handful of supporters.

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