Campaigners hold vigil over Belfast violence

Campaigners hold vigil over Belfast violence
A scene from the riots in Belfast this month.

The people of Belfast have come together this morning to pray for peace.

The five-minute vigil which was held at Belfast City Hall, comes after nearly two weeks of protests and violence following a decision to only fly the union flag on City Hall on designated days.

People lined all four sides of the building, linking arms.

One of the organisers, David Dickinson, said they were all there for hope, not hurt.

Mr Dickinson said: "We had to be able to do something about the disturbances and the levels of tension and the difficulty we have all felt over the last 10 days or so.

"So, all that we thought we could do was pray."

A number of church leaders were among those taking part.

Organiser Andrew Masters said the event sent out a powerful message that people in Northern Ireland supported peace.

He said: “We feel that this year has been in many ways incredibly positive through the ’Our Time Our Place’ (tourist board campaign). But, what the past 10 days have shown us is that we have come so far we still have quite a journey ahead of us.

“We just wanted to stand and pray for hope and peace.”

Loyalists have staged protests across the North since December 3 when councillors in Belfast voted to reduce the number of days the Union flag is flown over the city hall.

Disorder has erupted at a number of the pickets and almost 30 police officers have been injured during the trouble.

East Belfast Alliance Party MP Naomi Long received a death threat from loyalists, while senior Democratic Unionists Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots have also been informed of threats, apparently from dissident republicans, after speaking out in favour of flying the flag.

A number of councillors from the cross community Alliance Party have been advised by police not to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, loyalists are planning to hold another protest outside Belfast city hall this afternoon. Last Saturday 2,000 people took part in a picket over flags. Irish tricolours were burnt and some sectarian songs were chanted but, the event passed off peacefully.

Yesterday Belfast City Council launched a marketing drive to help boost trade in the countdown to Christmas.

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