Peaceful flag protest in Magherafelt

THE loyalist flag protest in Magherafelt passed off without incident on Tuesday night.

Up to 300 took part in a march in freezing conditions through the town to the local District Council offices at Ballyronan Road.

Councillors had started their monthly meeting early amid fears the protest could turn violent. Council business had been completed by the time the crowd reached the entrance gates.

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The gates were closed by police to prevent loyalists getting into the grounds of the council offices. A firework was let off during a ten minute stand-off.

The marchers then turned and made their way back into the town centre where they dispersed around 9.30pm.

A cross community children’s carol service scheduled to take place in the building was also called off as a precaution.

About 100 protesters gathered in the Diamond area, blocking traffic through the town, and where later joined by others who had blocked the Moneymore Road.

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The PSNI maintained a low profile and diverted traffic away from the town centre area and Ballyronan Road.

DUP council chairman Paul McLean said he supported peaceful protests.

He said that he could not be in attendance as the protest had coincided with the council’s monthly.

Sinn Fein councillor Ian Milne claimed the protests are illegal and they should not be tolerated.

He said the PSNI should not be turning a blind eye to these events and the law should apply equally to all.