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UK: Flag flying protests held on streets of Belfast


Belfast has witnessed loyalist violence for the fifth night running. The unrest has been sparked by a council decision to stop flying the British flag over City Hall every day of the year.

Police in Northern Ireland clashed with rioters on the streets of Belfast for the fifth night running on Monday, as controversy over moves to stop flying the British flag continued.

The province's police chief appealed to parents and politicians to respond to the situation.

"As chief constable I'm taking the unusual step of calling directly now for protests, if not to be ended, to take a step back, for the violence to come to an end and for responsible voices to be heard," Northern Ireland's chief constable, Matt Baggott said at a news conference. Baggott added that loyalist militant groups were taking advantage of and in some cases, causing the unrest.

Pro-British activists have been rioting in response to Belfast City Council's controversial decision on December 3 to limit the days when the union flag flies over City Hall. On Monday, in eastern Belfast, police targeted with water cannon a crowd of around 200 protesters throwing petrol and paint bombs, and fireworks.

There have been around 100 arrests so far and more than 60 officers have sustained injuries in the clashes.

Sectarian unrest continues to intermittently flare up in Northern Ireland, where Protestant loyalists want their country to remain a part of Britain and Catholics want unity with the Republic of Ireland. Militant Republican groups have not yet responded to the protests.

sej/jm (AP, Reuters)

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