Protestant jobs underlying flag protests

PUBLIC sector jobs for Protestants, parading disputes and ‘cultural differentials’ between Ulster Scots and the Irish language are some of the factors underpinning the protests about Belfast City Council’s flag policy, according to DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

The East Londonderry MP asked the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers if she was aware of the issues behind the protests.

“Is she aware that some of the underlying issues that have led to the flag dispute include getting jobs in the public sector for the Protestant community, cultural differentials between Ulster Scots and Irish and parading disputes?” he asked during Northern Ireland questions at Westminster.

“Those issues led to the flag dispute and then this morning (Wednesday, January 23) the police ombudsman ensured that investigations will take place only into the IRA activities of the past.

“All those issues are causing problems and must be addressed. Will she liaise with the appropriate Ministers in Northern Ireland to address those issues and see that they are resolved?” he asked.

Ms Villiers said it was ‘probably’ true that there was something other than just Belfast City Council’s flag policy behind the protests.

“I agree that there are probably a number of underlying issues relating to the recent flag protests and I am happy to work with the relevant Ministers on all those matters, as I am already doing,” she said.

“The strong message I would send out is that it is far more difficult to address such issues when there is violence on the streets of Belfast. That is why it is essential that the violence stops and the protests are replaced by a political dialogue on a way forward.”

She mentioned how she had discussed the matter repeatedly with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and with representatives from the other main political parties.

“It is vital that political leaders in Northern Ireland identify ways to reduce community division and build a genuinely shared society,” she said.