Northern Ireland news

Police 'not informed' of St Patrick's Day flag protest

The scene on St Patrick's Day in Belfast last year, when loyalists staged a flag protest outside City Hall. Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

THE organisers of a 12-hour Union flag protest announced for Belfast City Hall on St Patrick's Day have not informed police of their plans, the PSNI has said.

The 'vigil' is scheduled to begin at 1pm on March 17, a day when thousands of people will be congregating in the city centre to celebrate the patron saint.

The Parades Commission said it was not required to be informed or involved if the gathering consisted of a static protest in one location.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Police are aware of information being posted online regarding an event being planned to take place in Belfast city centre on St Patrick's Day. Police have not yet received notification from the organisers."

The council's annual St Patrick's Day parade is set to depart the City Hall at noon en route to a concert at Custom House Square.

The flag protest has been called by 'Loyal Peoples Protest', which has been responsible for numerous other demonstrations in recent years, and which posted the notice on social media alongside the slogan "No Surrender".

If the vigil goes ahead it will be the third consecutive year that Union flag protests have taken place at City Hall on March 17.

Last year the celebrations were marred by disturbances between rival groups of youths waving Union flags and tricolours on nearby Royal Avenue.

Around 15,000 people are believed to have attended the St Patrick's Day parade and concert in Belfast city centre last year.

Sinn Féin councillor Niall O Donnghaile, a former Belfast mayor, said: "St Patrick's Day in Belfast has been successful in the last few years, a family day, and I think that anyone who is trying to bring a protest out onto the streets will be treated with the contempt they deserve."

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