Loyalist group's new flag flown outside Belfast Catholic school

The new Loyalist Communities Council flag has been placed outside Mercy College in north Belfast
Brendan Hughes

A LOYALIST group's new flag has been erected outside a Catholic school in north Belfast.

The flag to mark the Battle of the Somme centenary has been placed on the Ballysillan Road outside Mercy College, a secondary school with more than 400 pupils.

Created by the newly formed Loyalist Communities Council, the Somme flag is aimed at replacing loyalist paramilitary flags.

Its launch in west Belfast last month was attended by representatives of the three main loyalist groupings – the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando.

However, just weeks later paramilitary flags were erected on lampposts across the north.

UDA flags appeared across the lower Shankill area of west Belfast, while UFF flags were also erected in the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey.

The new flag, which represents loyalists' links with the First World War, was launched alongside a new 'protocol' that includes a three-month limit on the flying of flags.

A previous flags protocol was abandoned after the decision by Belfast City Council in 2012 to restrict the flying of the Union flag at City Hall to designated days, sparking months of loyalist protests.

Loyalists have told The Irish News the new initiative is "doomed to fail".

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