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Loyalists march on Belfast City Hall for Union flag protests anniversary

Billy Dickson speaking outside Belfast City Hall with the Boyne Bridge Defenders on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Billy Dickson speaking outside Belfast City Hall with the Boyne Bridge Defenders on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
John Toner

By John Toner

Dozens of people marched on Belfast City Hall this afternoon to mark the seventh anniversary of the Union flag protests.

The Boyne Bridge Defenders flute band marched from Sandy Row Orange Hall to the City Hall, currently hosting the Belfast Christmas market flanked by a handful of enthusiastic supporters.

Loyalists took the streets of Belfast in 2012 following a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the Union flag at City Hall to a maximum of 18 days a year in line with government guidelines.

The protests sparked clashes between loyalists and police and led to rioting in the city as well as a number of arrests including blogger Jamie Bryson in 2013.

Billy Dickson speaking outside Belfast City Hall on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Billy Dickson speaking outside Belfast City Hall on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Marching through Christmas shoppers and tourists, the protesters came to a stop in front of Parachute Regiment flags and a banner emblazoned with ‘IRA scum’ at the entrance to the City Hall and Christmas market.

Founder member of the DUP and former RUC reservist Billy Dickson told the small assembled crowd: “I have been asked many times if the protests will continue and I can assure you they will.  This protest began because unionist people felt the erosion of their identity had gone too far.

“Today we pay tribute to those flag protestors who are on longer with us and I’d also like to thank the police for their weekly presence at the front of Belfast City Hall thus ensuring our right to hold a peaceful protest.

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“We also remember all innocent victims and their families from 1969 until this day. Especially we remember all the servicemen and women who served under Operation Banner, who I would just emphasise should not be persecuted for doing their duty when they were here.

“To them and who all suffer in mind and body, we will remember them. We will remember all those who served, suffered, died.”

The band struck up into renditions of The Sash and God Save The Queen following a moment of prayer and a reading of For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon before dispersing.

Members of the Boyne Bridge Defenders play God Save the Queen outside Belfast City Hall on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Members of the Boyne Bridge Defenders play God Save the Queen outside Belfast City Hall on the 7th anniversary of the Union Flag Protest. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

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