Northern Ireland

Laura McNamee leaves her home amid flag vote threats

Laura McNamee
Image caption Laura McNamee said she has moved out of her home in east Belfast due a threat on Facebook

A Belfast councillor has moved out of her home as a result of internet threats, amid controversy over the council's vote on Union flag policy.

Alliance councillor, Laura McNamee, said a threat was posted to her Facebook page on Saturday and she was advised by police not to return home.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly also said he was threatened after the flag vote.

On Monday, the council backed an Alliance motion to change its policy of flying the flag all year round.

Compromise motion

Minutes after the vote inside Belfast City Hall, a loyalist protest outside the building erupted into violence.

Eighteen people, including 15 PSNI officers, were injured in the rioting and some protesters broke through police lines and tried to storm into the hall.

Two men aged 18 and 22, and 17-year-old boy were arrested as a result of the disorder.

The 17-year-old and the 22-year-old have been released on conditional bail, pending further police enquiries.

The 18-year-old has been reported to the PPS.

Ahead of the vote, some of the demonstrators expressed anger at the Alliance Party, for proposing a motion that changed a century-old tradition of flying the Union flag outside Belfast City Hall every day of the year.

Police patrols

Sinn Fein and the SDLP wanted to remove the flag altogether, but they both backed Alliance's compromise motion to fly the flag on designated days.

The vote was passed by 29 to 21.

Ms McNamee said police have been carrying out patrols near the homes of some of her Alliance colleagues.

Image caption Alliance MP Naomi Long said her party would not be deterred by intimidation or terror

Earlier on Tuesday, about 100 loyalists held a protest outside an Alliance party office in east Belfast.

The office on the Upper Newtownards Road is the base of East Belfast MP Naomi Long.

The building was closed and police were present for the duration of the protest.

Ms Long said her party would not bow to intimidation.

'Attack on democracy'

"I think if we get to the point that we don't take decisions that we believe are right, simply because of the threat of violence and intimidation, then we no longer have a democracy - what we have is mob rule.

"That's something that I will not countenance because I believe fundamentally in the rule of law. I believe in democracy and I believe that it has to stand, so we will not budge because of intimidation or threat or terror", the Alliance MP said.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said the threat against his life had been received through Sinn Fein's North Belfast constituency office on the Antrim Road.

"The threat obviously follows in the aftermath of last night's attack on democracy at the Belfast City Hall by loyalists.

"The people who made the threat should understand that I nor any of the other Sinn Fein representatives will be deflected from pursuing equality in the city of Belfast or anywhere else," he said.

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