Change to Union Jack policy provokes riot in Belfast

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Change to Union Jack policy provokes riot in Belfast

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There have been violent protests in Northern Ireland following a decision by Belfast city council to stop flying the Union Jack all-year round.

The clashes between those proclaiming loyalty to the UK and police left at least five officers injured. Two of them, both women, were taken to hospital.

“Shame” shouted protesters through a broken window at the city hall. An attempt to break into the building was repelled by security forces.

The British flag has flown above the city hall every day for more than 100 years. The decision by the local authority means in future it will only appear 17 days a year, in line with the policy at the assembly for the whole province.

Irish nationalists from the Social Democrats and the Republican Sinn Fein now have a narrow majority in Belfast. They wanted to remove the Union Jack completely to present a more neutral face in a divided city, but backed a compromise deal.

One councillor said it was “historic” that Irish nationalists had agreed to the Union flag being flown at all. But a unionist condemned what he called the “stripping away of British identity”.

Politicians on all sides condemned the violence.