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Loyalists block roads in north Belfast as the ongoing flag dispute continued last week. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Northern Ireland

Loyalists plan protests across North over new policy on Union flag

At least 21 peaceful protests are planned for 6pm this evening, in moves that could hamper commuters across NI.

ALMOST TWO DOZEN simultaneous protests are planned for Northern Ireland this evening, in the latest demonstration of loyalist opposition to new rules on the flying of the Union flag.

The protests, being organised through Facebook, are to be held in towns across the North at 6pm this evening, and are likely to cause significant disruption to motorists and public transport during the evening rush.

The demonstrations – at least 21 in number – are in response to the vote of Belfast City Council two weeks ago to limit the flying of the British flag over the city hall to a fixed number of designated days each year.

The Facebook page through which the protests are being organised said the demonstrations were seeking to “stop the Republican appeasement policy” being pursued by authorities in the North.

It declares that “every Protestant community in Northern Ireland” was to take part in a peaceful protest, intending to “bring this country to a standstill”.

Belfast City Hall was one of the last public buildings in Northern Ireland to fly the British flag every day of the year; other major public buildings including Stormont Castle, the seat of the Northern Ireland assembly, only fly the flag on designated days.

The Council’s decision – on a motion tabled by the Alliance Party, which is neutral on matters of nationality – has led to a series of disturbances through the North in recent weeks, including several attacks on the offices and homes of Alliance Party politicians. Over 30 police officers have been injured in various disturbances.

Yesterday about 1,200 people partook in a peace rally outside Belfast city hall, seeking an end to the violent demonstrations.

Figures from the UK census held in April 2011, released last week, showed that nearly 48 per cent of the North’s population identified as ‘British’, while 29 per cent identified as ‘Northern Irish’ and almost 28 per cent as ‘Irish’.

Read: More than 1,200 attend Belfast peace rally

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