Loyalists set to delay Dublin rally over Belfast flag-flying

Loyalists last night looked set to delay plans to stage a rally in Dublin in protest at the lowering of the Union flag above Belfast City Hall.

Organisers said police in the Irish Republic’s capital wanted more time to make security arrangements for the rally, which is due to take place outside the Irish Parliament on Saturday.

Although there was no announcement of a definite decision, Willie Frazer of the so-called Ulster People’s Forum, whose supporters have been heavily involved in the unrest and disruption in Belfast since the beginning of last month, said: “The Garda want to facilitate this protest and we are prepared to work with them. But they said they need more time.”

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Earlier, David Cameron challenged Northern Ireland’s rival politicians to begin developing a shared future in a bid to ease tensions and end the street violence over the flying of the flag.

With loyalists threatening no let-up, the Prime Minister said he was willing to discuss the continuing disorder. But he also insisted it was up to the parties to play their part as well.

Mr Cameron told the Commons: “We need to build a shared future in Northern Ireland where we break down the barriers of segregation. I think that is part of the challenge to take away some of the tensions.”

Many traders in Belfast, especially bar and restaurant owners, whose profits plunged because of the trouble in the run-up to Christmas and New Year, are planning to withhold rates in protest. Demonstrations brought the city centre to a virtual standstill leading to disastrous sales figures. Dublin businesses also fear trouble if Saturday’s protest goes ahead.