Foreign Dispatch: Riots Return to Northern Ireland

By FOX News Radio’s Simon Owen in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast was looking its best when I arrived in the Northern Irish capital this week: it was a crisp winter’s day, the sun was shining, and, downtown, a jazz band was playing noisily on the street as people bustled around. All seemed well.

But it wasn’t.

Courtesy: AP Photo/Paul Faith/PA Wire

The previous night, Belfast had been hit by a sixth consecutive evening of rioting, with protesters attacking police with everything from Molotov cocktails to golf balls.

They were rioting over a flag.

This violent flare-up began in early December after lawmakers voted to reduce the amount of time the British flag is flown from the top of Belfast City Hall. Whereas previously it flew every day, it’ll now only be hoisted on 18 designated dates each year.

That’s left some pro-British unionists furious.

Courtesy: Courtesy: AP Photo/Paul Faith/PA Wire

I arrived in Belfast on the first of those dates: the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge (also known as Kate Middleton).

As I reported from outside City Hall, with the flag behind me, a few people called out as they passed: “It’s a disgrace”, shouted one taxi driver. “It’s good to see our flag back”, said another man.

There is support here for the right of those offended by the flag decision to protest. But the rioting is condemned by almost everyone. For many, it’s an unwelcome reminder of Northern Ireland’s long and bloody bad times. “We lived through the Troubles”, local Lesley told me, “and I wouldn’t like to see it go back there”.