The decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days that the British Union Jack flag can be flown above Belfast City Hall from 365 days to 17 has been greeted with an escalating amount of violent protest in Belfast and beyond.
At least 27 police officers have so far been injured in the violence that has followed several protests by loyalists who oppose the decision. Bricks and petrol bombs have been thrown at security forces, cars burned and death threats made to Councillors.
Despite appeals by the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson,himself a loyalist, for the violence to cease, it has been reported that loyalist paramilitary influence may be driving the protests.
The violence has coincided with the visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was warmly greeted by both Peter Robinson and his Sinn Fein counterpart Martin McGuinness. The former first-lady and her husband Bill Clinton were pivotal figures in the fledgling peace process and became the first US President and first-lady to visit the province in 1995.