In pictures: Saint Patrick’s Day 24-hour Union Flag protest ends at 10pm

A Union Flag protest which started at 1pm on Saint Patrick’s Day and was planned to last 24 hours was stopped on Tuesday at 10pm.

Flag protestor Billy Dickson who had been taking part in the protest said they took the decision “in the interests of safety”.

General view of loyalist protestor at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre

General view of loyalist protestor at Belfast City Hall after the St Patrick's Day Carnival parade in Belfast city centre

“Coming up to 9pm there were a lot of people under the influence (of alcohol),” he said.

“I’m not talking about the union flag people I might add. But they were coming across the road with their tricolours wrapped around them.

“They were crossing the road and there were a few times they could have been killed and we didn’t want to see anyone being killed.”

He said after discussions the flag protestors decided to stop at 10pm.

“We all got together and thanked the police for doing an incredibly good job handling the situation,” he said.

“The number of young people coming over seemed to be escalating, and some of them were oblivious even to where they were. We knew it was going to get worse when the pubs shut.”

He said he believed “we made our point about how Saint Patrick’s Day should be for everyone”.

He added: “We may have to consider stepping up the protest and try and get the council and especially the business community to get together and make Saint Patrick’s day a mutual day for everyone regardless of who you are and what you believe.”

Speaking outside Belfast City Hall on Tuesday, Mr Dickson told the News Letter said the celebrations were being “hijacked by tricolours and intimidation of unionists in the city centre”.

“When unionists go into the city centre they feel intimidated, even if they are getting something to eat,” he added.

In the afternoon of Saint Patrick’s Day a Union Flag was burned by republican revellers as rival groups gathered in Belfast city centre.

Pictures emerged of the flag being set alight by youths and teenage girls draped in Irish tricolours in Donegall Street, opposite to where loyalist protestors had gathered at the gates of Belfast City Hall.

Tension escalated as both groups waved their flags as police separated the crowds amid singing and chanting.

A PSNI spokesman said a young girl had been taken to hospital after being struck by a missile thrown from the crowd gathered at Castle Junction.

And a man in his 30s was also arrested for disorderly behaviour and will be reported to the PPS.