Northern Ireland news

Protestant Coalition to hold protest over joint football reception

Loyalists gather for a union flag protest outside Belfast city hall in December 2012.
Marie Louise McConville

THE PROTESTANT COALITION is to hold a protest this evening over a planned reception for both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams at Belfast city hall.

On their Facebook page they encouraged people to bring Northern Ireland flags to the protest, which begins at 5.45 tonight.

The group previously held an 'anti-refugee' protest outside city hall in December, but were outnumbered by a counter demo held by Belfast Anti-Fascists.

Progressive Unionist leader Billy Hutchinson had warned that there could be a return to union flag-style protests if the joint reception went ahead.

The unionist party leader issued the warning as Belfast city council is due to debate a motion put forward by the SDLP proposing that the two teams are honoured before they travel to France in the summer for the European Championships.

It is the first time both sides, who are both managed by Northern Ireland men, have qualified at the same time.

SDLP councillor Declan Boyle said he proposed the motion to "celebrate the sporting success of Michael O'Neill and Martin O'Neill and their teams. In 2016, Northern Ireland should be mature enough to do that".

However, Billy Hutchinson warned that a joint reception could have serious consequences.

"I warned them over removing the flag, that it would lead to protests should they go down that road. It will be the same again."

 

There will be a protest tonight at Belfast city hall, against the joint meal with Irish football team Sinn Fein are...

Posted by Protestant Coalition on Tuesday, January 5, 2016
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