Peaceful flag protest outside Moyle Council

AN estimated 70 loyalist protesters - many with Union Flags - gathered outside nationalist-controlled Moyle Council in Ballycastle last night (Monday December 10).

The peaceful demonstration began around 6.30pm ahead of a Council meeting at 7pm and dispersed from the Council grounds around an hour later.

There was a large police presence including several land rovers parked out of sight nearby.

There were cheers and applause after Ulster Unionist councillors and TUV representatives including party leader Jim Allister addressed the crowd and said they supported peaceful protest regarding the decision by Belfast Council to only fly the flag on ‘designated days’.

One protester even wished Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird “a merry Christmas” after she spoke to the demonstrators.

Loyalists handed a statement to Cllr Sandra Hunter, Ulster Unionist Council Chairperson, who came outside and she addressed to the crowd urging a peaceful demonstration.

At one stage former Sinn Fein and now Independent councillor Padraig McShane was heckled when he addressed the loyalists and said they were “unrepresentative of the good people of Moyle”.

From the steps of the Council one protester read a statement which said: ‘Tonight’s peaceful protest is held to demonstrate solidarity with Unionists in Belfast and across Northern Ireland who are rightly aggrieved by the removal of the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall. Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and as such the removal of the Union Flag impacts on the whole of Northern Ireland.

‘Unfortunately our protest is not only about the removal of the Union Flag but is about the continuing erosion of British identity at the behest of SF/IRA. Since the 1998 Belfast Agreement Unionists have given so much under a false pretence and it is now clear that SF/IRA’s demands will never be satisfied.

‘We are therefore protesting to demand that the Unionist culture is respected and ask for equality to be extended to the Unionist community,’ the statement ended.

Jim Allister told the demonstrators they should not follow in the footsteps of Republicans by using violence.

Several protesters had scarves pulled up round their faces and Mr Allister told them that if they were proud of the Union Flag they should not cover their faces.

The demonstration ended with the singing of the National Anthem with the words ‘no surrender’ added by some.

Moyle Council has a policy of not flying any flag.