Union flag raised in Belfast for royal birthday

It was still dark when the union flag was raised at Belfast City Hall.

The union flag is flying at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday for the first time since a decision not to display it permanently sparked protests, some of which have been violent.

The move marks the Duchess of Cambridge's 31st birthday.

Police were attacked with petrol bombs and fireworks for a sixth night in east Belfast on Tuesday.

The cost of policing flag protests in Northern Ireland since they began early in December is believed to be over £7m.

Taken down

A campaign of street demonstrations started just over a month ago, when Belfast councillors voted on 3 December to limit the days when the union flag flies over Belfast City Hall.

Some of the protests have been violent and resulted in more than 100 people being arrested and dozens of police officers sustaining injuries.

The cost of policing flag protests in Northern Ireland since they began early in December is believed to be over £7m

The flag was raised on Wednesday to mark the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday, but will be taken down again in the evening and loyalists have made it clear they will continue their protests.

Their central demand is for the decision to be reversed but the political make up of the council means there is little chance of that happening.

Seen from afar, riots over which flag flutters above a council building may appear inexplicable.

However, national identity remains a source of deep division in Northern Ireland.

Disputes about flags and symbols have been a regular occurrence over the decades.

It has been confirmed that the cost of policing the flag protests and dealing with disorder during the first two weeks from 3 to 17 December was £3.8m.

Policing has remained largely the same since, apart from a lull over the Christmas holidays.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it could not comment on the total cost so far because it did not have up to date figures.

On Tuesday night, petrol bombs, bricks and bottles were thrown by loyalists in Templemore Avenue, off the Lower Newtownards Road.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has said Northern Ireland was being "held to ransom by protesters", and she called for an end to all street demonstrations over flags, even peaceful ones.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Vernon Coaker, said the riots had become a matter of "national security" after the police said senior loyalist paramilitaries had been involved in the rioting.

Although the union flag is flying over Belfast City Hall, it has not been raised over Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

This is because Stormont is governed by the Flags (NI) Order 2000 whereas Belfast City Council adopted the designated days as set out by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in Westminster.

DESIGNATED DAYS FOR FLYING THE UNION FLAG*

*Source Department of Culture, Media and Sport and subject to review

9 January

Birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge

20 January

Birthday of The Countess of Wessex

6 February

Her Majesty's Accession

19 February

Birthday of The Duke of York

10 March

Birthday of The Earl of Wessex

11 March

Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March)

17 March

St Patrick's Day (in Northern Ireland only)

21 April

Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen

9 May

Europe Day

2 June

Coronation Day

10 June

Birthday of The Duke of Edinburgh

15 June

Official Celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday

21 June

Birthday of The Duke of Cambridge

17 July

Birthday of The Duchess of Cornwall

15 August

Birthday of The Princess Royal

10 November

Remembrance Day (second Sunday)

14 November

Birthday of The Prince of Wales

20 November

Her Majesty's Wedding Day

Not applicable to Northern Ireland are the opening and closing of Parliament and the English, Scottish and Welsh national saints' days

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Northern Ireland stories

RSS

Features

  • Burning roubleWho pays?

    The knock-on effects of Russia's economic troubles


  • Save our library signCouncil cuts

    How is your local authority affected?


  • A Pakistani army soldier looks at a plaque listing the best sports students at the site of the militants' attack on the army-run school in Peshawar on 18 December 2014Watershed hope

    Has the real war on terror finally started in Pakistan?


  • Mary TuckerChristmas workers

    Those who plan to spend the day working rather than celebrating


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.