Loyalists stage new flag protests across Larne borough

A FURTHER two peaceful demonstrations were held in the Larne borough on Monday, as the dispute over the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall continues to rumble on.

A crowd of between 200-300 loyalists assembled at Circular Road roundabout in the town – the site of the controversial Jubilee Crown structure – at 6pm, where a speech was read out before the protesters dispersed at about 6.50pm.

And at 7pm in Ballycarry, a small group of about 20-30 protesters gathered at Main Street for a demonstration lasting just 10 minutes. Both protests passed off without incident, and police confirmed that no traffic diversion were put in place.

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The protests come on the heels of last Monday’s 1000-strong demonstration outside the offices of Larne Borough Council, which also passed off peacefully.

However, violence once again flared at demonstrations in Belfast on Monday, while in Carrickfergus, protesters burst into a council meeting and shouted abuse at elected representatives, singling out Alliance members in particular.

The incidents came exactly two weeks after a decision by Belfast City Council to fly the Union flag at City Hall only on designated days. Nationalists on the council had wanted the flag taken down altogether, but in the end voted on a compromise from the Alliance Party that it would fly on designated days.

East Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan accused police of “standing back” during the protests. He said: “Only last week the Chief Constable Matt Baggott outlined what was legal and what was illegal during these protests.

“Tonight we have seen the PSNI stand back and allow a small group of unionists to hold large areas of East Antrim to ransom, through what is the PSNI’s own definition, illegal protests.”