SDLP councillor avoids injury as shots fired at family home

General view of burnt out cars at the Dee Street junction of the Newtownards Road in east Belfast. Picture: Kelvin Boyes
General view of burnt out cars at the Dee Street junction of the Newtownards Road in east Belfast. Picture: Kelvin Boyes

An SDLP councillor, her husband and infant daughter were lucky to avoid injury last night after seven shots were fired at their home.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed the incident involving East Belfast nationalist politician Claire Hanna took place yesterday amid ongoing violence over the non-flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.

Ms Hanna said the shots, which struck her front door and windows, were fired from a high-powered ball-bearing gun, and could have been fatal.

She and her party leader, Alasdair McDonnell, condemned the incident and claimed those protesting over the flag dispute needed to take responsibility for what happened.

Last night saw around 100 people again protesting on the streets of Belfast, claiming it is over the flag dispute.

While it was described as a quieter night than in recent days, PSNI officers reported steel barriers, bricks fireworks and bottles being thrown at them by a group which stayed after the protest ended.

A car was also set ablaze at Beersbridge Road, while the public was urged to avoid Castlereagh Street and Mountpollinger Road due to disturbances.

The situation came as loyalists organising a protest in Dublin next weekend denied the protest was provocative, and was instead a demonstration against Belfast City Hall’s non-flying of the Union flag.

Willie Frazer of the Ulster People’s Forum, who also organised the Love Ulster parade in 2006 which was disrupted by rioting, also denied that recent violence in Belfast was being orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries.

The protest will start at 12pm on Saturday outside Leinster House.

On RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr Frazer said it was “certainly not” the case that the outlawed UVF were involved in the ongoing violence in the North over the flag issue.

“That is a line fired out by the system,” he said. “Not to say there are not people from that kind of background [involved] — there certainly is. But this is not being orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries. I know that for a fact.” Up to 150 protesters will take part in Saturday’s protest.

Mr Frazer has suggested the group will ask that the tricolour be lowered over Government Buildings as a way of highlighting the grievances of loyalists in the North over the decision by Belfast City Council to only fly the Union flag on certain days.

“The flag of this country is the Union Jack, like it or lump it,” Mr Frazer said.

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