Published on Monday, 31 December 2012 12:25 Written by Belfast Newsletter
THE British National Party has been warned to stay away from protests in support of the Union Flag being flown at Belfast City Hall.
BNP leader Nick Griffin has expressed support for flag protesters and there are fears that he will travel to Northern Ireland to take part in protests in support of the flag at Belfast City Hall.
Earlier this year, the BNP leader attended Ulster Covenant centenary celebrations at Stormont. Protesters have expressed a fear that the BNP will try and “hijack” the event.
Jim Dowson, who was once a fundraiser for the BNP in Scotland, but never a member of the party, addressed a flag protest at Belfast City Hall in December.
The flag protests are being organised principally via the social networking website Facebook. One protester posted on the Keep The Union Flag flying over City Hall page a warning to the BNP to stay away. “These guys may be under the same flag but they have nothing else in common with the Protestant community. BNP you are not welcome, stay away,” he wrote.
The statement, which was posted on Thursday afternoon has been liked by more than 200 people.
Another protester posted on the page: “If I attend a people’s protest and I see the likes of the BNP, I will walk away. They do not speak for me.”
Bangor loyalist Jamie Bryson who has spoken at many of the flag protests said while he could not speak for all the protesters he was also very opposed to the attendance of BNP members at demonstrations in support of the flag at City Hall.
He told the News Letter: “While I would emphasise that everyone has the right to attend the protests it has been made abundantly clear from the outset that no one person or political party will be controlling, dictating to or hijacking the protests for their own ends.
“The protests are the property of the people and a huge majority of those in attending the protests would be outraged at any attempt by the BNP or any other political party to hijack the protest for their own agenda.
“It would be my view that these rumours linking the protests to far right groups are an attempt by sinister elements to undermine support for perfectly legitimate protests.”
A BNP spokesman said he did not understand why any respectable political party would be banned from the protests.
Mr Griffin has expressed support for the flag protests on his Twitter profile, criticising Irish republicans for what he termed as their “long war v loyalist culture and identity”.
Protests have been taking place throughout Northern Ireland since Belfast City Council voted at the start of December to fly the Union Flag only on 20 statutory days, instead of all year round as the policy had been previously. Sinn Fein and the SDLP wanted the flag removed completely but voted for a proposal by the Alliance Party to fly the Union Flag from the City Hall on statutory days.
Since then protests have been taking place across Northern Ireland, as well as in England and Scotland in support of restoring the flag to City Hall all year round. The protests are not being led by one organiser but arranged by local people in the various communities mostly via social networking websites and by text message. A protest even took place on Christmas Day on the Newtownards Road, outside East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long’s office.
Belfast City Council is next due to meet on January 7 and councillors are expected to discuss a DUP proposal on the flying of the flag.
Meanwhile, a protest designed to bring Northern Ireland to a standstill is currently being planned for 6pm on Friday, January 11.
A leaflet has called for protesters to turn out in “all loyalist areas” across Northern Ireland in an attempt to bring the Province to a standstill.
Credit: Belfast Newsletter
Correction from Searchlight: Contrary to the statement in this article, Jim Dowson was a fundraiser for the BNP nationally not just in Scotland.