Union flag lowered in Belfast after flying for royal birthday

The BBC's James Cook says police are hoping the situation remains calm

Belfast City Hall's union flag has been lowered after flying for the first time since a decision was taken not to display it permanently.

The vote by Belfast city Council on 3 December sparked a campaign of protests, some of them violent.

The flag flew on Wednesday to mark the Duchess of Cambridge's 31st birthday.

Flag protests have taken place in Belfast and Londonderry on Wednesday evening, but there have been no reports of any trouble.

The Northern Ireland secretary of state has said riots linked to the protests are causing "significant damage" to the economy.

Theresa Villiers said the "negative images" were "threatening jobs".


She described the violence as "appalling".

Seen from afar, riots over which flag flutters above a council building may appear inexplicable.

However, national identity remains a source of deep division in Northern Ireland.

Disputes about flags and symbols have been a regular occurrence over the decades.

"Those who have been trying to bring Northern Ireland to a standstill need to take a long, hard look at what it is they think they're achieving," she said.

"I can understand that feelings run high when it comes to issues on flags, particularly in Northern Ireland where questions of identity remain so sensitive.

"But nothing can excuse the scenes we have witnessed, with over 60 police officers injured."

Ms Villiers said it was "incomprehensible" to express patriotism and support for the union by "hurling bricks and petrol bombs at police".

"These violent protesters are damaging the cause they claim to support," she said.

The cost of policing the protests is believed to be over £7m.

Some of the protests have been violent and resulted in more than 100 people being arrested and dozens of police officers sustaining injuries.

Loyalists have made it clear they will continue their protests.

Their central demand is for the decision to fly the union only on designated days to be reversed but the political make up of the council means there is little chance of that happening.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives group has said a planned loyalist protest in Dublin on Saturday will not take place as scheduled.

Barry Halliday, who was assisting loyalist activist Willie Frazer in organising the protest, told RTE News that it had been "put on hold" following contact with Irish police.


*Source Department of Culture, Media and Sport and subject to review

9 January

Birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge

20 January

Birthday of The Countess of Wessex

6 February

Her Majesty's Accession

19 February

Birthday of The Duke of York

10 March

Birthday of The Earl of Wessex

11 March

Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March)

17 March

St Patrick's Day (in Northern Ireland only)

21 April

Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen

9 May

Europe Day

2 June

Coronation Day

10 June

Birthday of The Duke of Edinburgh

15 June

Official Celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday

21 June

Birthday of The Duke of Cambridge

17 July

Birthday of The Duchess of Cornwall

15 August

Birthday of The Princess Royal

10 November

Remembrance Day (second Sunday)

14 November

Birthday of The Prince of Wales

20 November

Her Majesty's Wedding Day

Not applicable to Northern Ireland are the opening and closing of Parliament and the English, Scottish and Welsh national saints' days

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Northern Ireland stories


BBC News NI Live

    12:46: Footballer refused fund: Irish News

    The Irish News reports that former Derry Footballer Kevin McCloy was refused a special injury fund by the GAA after he almost died during a match.

    Kevin McCloy
    12:36: MOT discs to be done away with

    Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today announced that from 6 April 2015 MOT discs no longer have to be displayed on any vehicle.

    MOT test

    If any vehicle owners have a test disc which has not expired on this date, it can be removed from the vehicle and destroyed.

    12:24: O'Connor inquest postponed

    The PSNI has apologised to the family of a murdered man after it emerged that a chief suspect in the killing was mistakenly given an On the Run letter.

    Gareth O'Connor went missing in May 2003

    Gareth O'Connor, 24, disappeared in May 2003. His body was recovered from Newry Canal two years later. There's to be a new investigation into the murder.

    12:11: NI parties should debate: PM

    David Cameron says he has no objections to NI parties taking part in the TV general election leaders debates.

    David Cameron

    Speaking to the Guardian he said: "I don't quite see why Northern Ireland seems to be missing out because, as far as I'm concerned, that is as important a part of our United Kingdom as well as Scotland."

    12:03: TUV election candidate: Mark Devenport BBC News NI Political Editor

    Our political editor Mark Devenport tweets:

    11:53: Doctors' pay: BBC Talkback

    Should GP salaries in Northern Ireland be increased, to attract more people into the profession? Talkback will be discussing the issue today - join William Crawley for the debate, which starts at noon.

    11:45: Drop selection, says archbishop: Maggie Taggart BBC News NI Education Correspondent

    Archbishop of Armagh Eamonn Martin has made a plea for Catholic grammar schools to abandon academic selection.

    Monsignor Eamon Martin is likely to be the cardinal's successor

    The Archbishop says Catholic schools must look out for those being left behind or neglected in the Catholic education system.

    11:35: 77 new jobs for Londonderry

    A total of 77 news jobs will be created in Derry as work on two iconic buildings begins in the city to turn them into boutique hotels.

    Derry 26 Jan 2015

    The former Northern Counties Club on Bishop Street is being converted into a 31-bed hotel, with a restaurant, cookery school and two retail units, while a former bank building in Shipquay Street will be turned into a 20-bed hotel with a bar and lounge area for both residents and non-residents.

    11:24: Ireland see off Wales: BBC Sport NI

    Ireland women's rugby squad stepped up their preparations for the Six Nations with a 31-12 victory over Wales at Ashbourne RFC on Sunday, outscoring the visitors by five tries to two.

    Paula Fitzpatrick and Ailis Egan of Ireland

    It was Ireland's first game under new head coach Tom Tierney and Anthony Eddy, the newly-appointed director of sevens and women's rugby.

    11:20: Loans boost to Quays plan John Campbell BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

    Newry-based property firm Parker Green International has refinanced its loans that were held by the Cerberus investment fund.

    Newry Quays centre

    The firm's owner. Gerard O'Hare, said the new finance means Parker Green can go ahead with planned developments like the extension of Newry's Quays centre.

    11:07: Ferry sailings cancelled

    The 12:00 and 14:00 sailings of the Rathlin ferry are cancelled today because of the weather.

    10:54: Pro12 final for Kingspan BBC Sport NI

    Kingspan Stadium will host the Pro12 Grand Final in May after Ulster secured the rights to the league's showpiece finale.

    Kingspan Stadium

    The tournament organisers will confirm the news in Belfast on Monday.

    10:44: Sleeping shelter removed

    Belfast City Council has removed the emergency sleeping shelter left on a Belfast street.

    sleeping shelter

    The council says it was there without permission and they're trying to contact the owners.

    10:33: Rail link to Dublin Airport? John Campbell BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

    Irish Rail is considering a rail extension that could allow people to travel directly from Belfast to Dublin Airport.

    Dublin airport

    The plan will ultimately have to be approved by the Republic's Department of Transport and currently has no definite timeframe or budget.

    10:23: NI defibrillator firm enjoys sales jump Belfast Telegraph

    Northern Ireland defibrillator firm HeartSine has boosted sales to the Middle East by 60% over the last year, it has emerged.

    The company, based in Belfast, sells its products in over 70 countries.

    10:11: Sleeping shelter set out

    An emergency sleeping shelter for the homeless has appeared in a Belfast street.

    sleeping shelter

    It has a solar panel to power a radio, a light and a phone. Belfast City Council is investigating who owns it.

    09:59: Maghera road reopens PSNI

    The Coleraine Road, Maghera, has reopened following a road traffic collision.

    09:48: Snow coming back? Angie Phillips BBC News NI Weather Presenter

    Here's details of the Met Office early warning for snow on Wednesday and Thursday. Bitter strong north westerly wind too.

    Snow warning
    09:38: Jobs lost in Xtra-vision closures

    Film rental chain Xtra-vision is closing two stores in Londonderry and Strabane with the loss of ten jobs.

    Xtra Vision

    Xtra-vision closed a number of stores across Northern Ireland last year after going into receivership.

    09:26: Aer Lingus mulls new offer

    Aer Lingus are considering a revised offer from IAG, the owner of British Airways.

    Aer Lingus

    The new 1.36bn euro offer, which follows two previous bids, depends on the recommendation of Aer Lingus's board and both Ryanair and the Irish government.

    09:15: Euro rate 'bad news' for NI: Clodagh Rice BBC News NI

    The chief economist of the Ulster Bank says the weakening euro is bad news for Northern Ireland's food and drink industry.

    New 10-euro note showing portrait watermark, emerald number and hologram strip

    Richard Ramsey warns that it could mean we lose out to competitors in the Republic and that he expects to see the exchange rate to fall to about 72p.

    09:00: Stoneyford sky

    @debs_doodles tweets: @newslineweather there's a really cold wind blowing near Stoneyford but such a beautiful sky!

    sky pic
    08:46: Hare today, gone tomorrow

    BBC News NI reporter Allan Preston has been on an overnight hare-watch at Belfast International Airport and he'll have more on Good Morning Ulster at about 08:55.

    Hare hunt

    Earlier we posted that his package would be on-air at 07:45 - our mistake there. Put it down to the sometimes hare-um scarum nature of the newsroom.

    08:37: UUP question O'Dowd decision

    Education minister John O'Dowd has been asked to explain why he gave the go ahead to a new Irish language school by the UUP.

    John O'Dowd

    He has agreed to open Coláiste Dhoire in Dungiven, County Londonderry, but the UUP says the cost is unsustainable. The issue will be debated in the assembly later.

    08:22: Depression 'less acceptable' illness Marie-Louise Connolly BBC News NI Health Correspondent

    Employers in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to have a greater understanding of mental health issues by a local charity.

    Siobhan Doherty

    Aware Defeat Depression's chief executive, Siobhan Doherty, says there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness.

    08:12: Man 'critical' after crash

    A man in his 20s is in a critical condition in hospital after a crash in Maghera. The collision happened on the Coleraine Road before 22:00 last night.

    The road is still closed.

    08:01: Giants draw setback BBC Sport NI

    The Belfast Giants' hopes of retaining their Elite League crown suffers a setback as they had to settle for a 4-4 draw at Fife Flyers.

    Belfast Giants
    07:51: Road closed after crash PSNI

    The Coleraine Road, Maghera, is closed between Main Street and Crew Road due to a road traffic collision. Motorists should seek an alternative route.

    07:41: We're going on a hare hunt: Allan Preston BBC News NI

    I've been on a overnight hare hunt at Belfast International Airport, home to scores of the animals.

    Jeep and plane

    I spotted more than 50, and my report is on Good Morning Ulster in a few minutes.

    07:30: Colder but brighter today Angie Phillips BBC News NI Weather Presenter

    It's not as mild today but it's brighter with some scattered showers in the north and west.

    Monday 26 January


    07:20: Air time Jayne McCormack BBC News NI

    On Sunday, ten autistic children and their relatives were invited for a trial-run through Belfast City Airport security and even onto a plane.

    Belfast City Airport autism

    It was designed to give them a chance to become familiar with air travel before setting off on holidays. More on Good Morning Ulster at 07:25.

    07:07: Elmgrove Primary reopens

    The east Belfast primary school shut last Friday after an email threat, has reopened as normal this morning.

    Elmgrove Primary school

    Elmgrove Primary said the move followed consultation with police and BELB officials. A man has been in court in connection with the incident.

    07:00: Good morning

    Welcome back to BBC News NI Live for Monday, 26 January - we'll have all the latest news, sport, travel and weather right up until 19:00.



Elsewhere on the BBC


  • Robbie RogersHARDtalk Watch

    Gay footballer Robbie Rogers on locker room homophobia and the ‘pack mentality’ in soccer

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.