Flag protests set to continue in Ballymoney say local Loyalists

MORE than one hundred loyalists demonstrated in Ballymoney on Friday night in the continuing dispute over the Union Flag issue which has plunged the country into political turmoil and is said to have cost the economy millions of pounds in lost revenue.

Protestors in the Borough say they are determined to maintain pressure on political leaders to halt what they claim is the gradual erosion of their culture after Belfast City Council decided to lower the flag from its permanent position at City Hall and fly it only on designated days throughout the year.

Ballymoney has witnessed a number of demonstrations and all have been of a peaceful nature, but the mood amongst those taking part is one of determination. A loyalist source said they are not allowing the flags issue to be put on the political back burner.

“This is vital to loyalists that there will be no let up in the protests,” the source said.

Friday night’s march passed off peacefully and protestors insisted that they kept within the law by allowing the free movement of traffic throughout the routes taken.

Commenting on the issue, a PSNI spokesperson said: “Everyone has the right to peacefully protest and police will endeavour to facilitate that right where possible providing protestors remain within the law.

“However where protest activity is unlawful we will take action and there will be consequences for those breaking the law.

“To remain within the law protestors should not block roads or prevent the free flow of vehicle or pedestrian traffic. The protest should not be conducted in a manner or location that is likely to cause a breach of the peace.

“Organising or participating in a public procession that has not been notified is unlawful and police will respond accordingly.

“Protestors should not conceal their identity by covering their face and must remain peaceful and not use violent or threatening behaviour.

“Any persons blocking a public road will in the first instance be warned as to their conduct before any action is taken by police to clear the road or conduct arrests.

“If you break the law then you can be summoned to court, prosecuted and receive a criminal record.

“Anyone who has a complaint about the conduct of a police officer should contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman”.

The loyalist source said they had a number of issues with the police including what they claimed was an unnecessary search of a vehicle.

The parade, made up of men, women and children, met at the Town Hall and walked down Main Street and then on to the roundabout at the Rodeing Foot before proceeding in the opposite direction back to their original starting point.

It is understood that further parades are being planned with the source claiming there remains a determined resolve in support of fellow loyalists throughout the country.

“The main protests may be in Belfast, but that doesn’t say the country towns such as Ballymoney are any less determined in their stance,” the spokesperson said.