McGuinness says he has met loyalist flag protesters

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told MLAs he had met people who were involved in the loyalist flag protests, on 28 January 2013.

Speaking during the Assembly's Question Time, Mr McGuinness said he had also met some people who could influence the ending of violence on the streets.

Replying to a question from the SDLP's Alban Maginness, the deputy first minister welcomed the "Backing Belfast" initiative aimed at encouraging consumers back into the city.

He said the key was "to see confidence and stability restored".

Mr McGuinness also spoke of the importance of the 2013 City of Culture celebrations to his home city.

He offered to speak to the loyalist people of Londonderry who had said they felt ignored.

"I am willing to go to the Waterside and speak to people who are protesting," he added.

Education Minister John O'Dowd was asked about homophobic bullying in schools, and outlined some of the actions being taken to combat bullying.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew asked whether the teaching in some schools that homosexuality was a sin could give rise to bullying.

The minister indicated that it was not his job to lay down morality but that in his opinion, "being in a loving relationship with anyone is not a sin".

Mr O'Dowd also replied to questions about the destinations of school leavers, shared education and newly-qualified teachers.

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