Unionist forum 'most representative in 50 years': Robinson

DUP leader Peter Robinbson and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt have held the first meeting of the Unionist Forum

The new unionist forum is "the most representative group in the unionist community to meet in half a century," NI's first minister has said.

The forum met for the first time on Thursday, after weeks of flag protests.

Peter Robinson told a press conference at Stormont there has been "no angry words" and that he was very encouraged.

The forum has set up a taskforce to engage with the wider community, and eight working groups on subjects across the unionist spectrum.

The new body was established by the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party to address the ongoing union flag protest and other concerns within the unionist community.

The DUP leader described the first meeting as "useful and positive".

"We want to move beyond protests to political action to get outcomes that are beneficial, not just to the unionist community but the whole community in Northern Ireland," Mr Robinson added.

'Mechanism for change'

Asked if he would talk to loyalist paramilitaries, he replied: "We will talk to anyone who wants to talk to us about how we can move forward in an exclusively peaceful and democratic manner.

"We want to take people beyond the protest, we want to engage with people. Here is the mechanism for change.

"The protesters have highlighted issues, the forum is taking those issues forward."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he had been struck by the breadth of representation at the meeting and the very positive nature of engagement.

He said there were plans for the forum to "get out and hit the ground" as early as Friday.

The cost of policing the protests is believed to be more than £7m and 68 officers have been injured.

Earlier this week, the police said individual, senior loyalist paramilitaries were involved in orchestrated violence in east Belfast, the scene of six consecutive nights of rioting.

Flag protests took place in Belfast and Londonderry on Wednesday evening, but there were no reports of any trouble.

More on This Story

Related Stories

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

More Northern Ireland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • A very clever little girlBrain gain

    Why are people getting better at intelligence tests?


  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth


  • Welsh society plaqueDistant valley

    How St David's Day is marked in one community far from Wales


  • A reveller attends celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of the city of Rio de Janeiro - 1 March 2015Partying in the streets

    Rio de Janeiro marks 450 years since it was founded


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • KnucklesGood or bad?

    For many it can be very satisfying to 'crack' the bones in your hand, but is it bad for you?

Programmes

  • BatteriesClick Watch

    More power to your phone - the lithium-ion batteries that could last twice as long

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

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.