BBC, BELFAST TELEGRAPH (Northern Ireland), THE IRISH TIMES, RTE (Ireland)
BELFAST- The North Ireland capital of Belfast saw its fifth consecutive night of violence last night after a largely peaceful demonstration at City Hall erupted into riot.
The Union flag over Belfast City Hall. Photo: Anosmia via Flickr
The Belfast Telegraph reports that loyalist protests have been continuing across Northern Ireland since early December in response to the vote by Belfast councilors to only fly the Union flag at Belfast City Hall on certain designated days instead of year-round. The first of these days will be this Wednesday, to mark the birthday of Prince William's pregnant wife, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Loyalists believe that Northern Ireland should stay part of the United Kingdom, and defend the "Union" with Great Britain.
Water canons and five baton rounds were deployed last night as the some of the demonstrators returned from the center and went past volatile areas of the city. The Irish Times reports that calm was once again restored at about 10 p.m. Eight arrests were made, bringing the total since the violence began to 104, according to the BBC.
According to RTE, Police Chief Constable Matt Baggott had earlier said that senior members of the loyalist paramilitary group – the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) – in east Belfast have been increasingly orchestrating some of the loyalist violence in the row over the union flag. Mr Baggott also called on all those involved to take a step back and made known his concern over the number of young people involved.
More than 60 police officers have been injured in the last five weeks by petrol bombs, paint bombs, fireworks and heavy masonry while rioters have damaged vehicles with hatchets and sledge hammers.
Councilors had received death threats when the decision was first taken last month, as well as attacks on their homes. During her visit to Belfast in December, Hillary Clinton called for peace, condemning the violent storm that was brewing. Mrs Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were vital to the peace process during the 1990's.