Belfast, NORTHERN IRELAND – Hillary Clinton’s visit to Belfast on Friday was overshadowed by riots.
Hundreds of protestors took to the streets after the former First Lady expressed solidarity with a female Northern Ireland MP who received death threats because her party voted to limit the flying of the union flag at Belfast city hall.
The life of East Belfast MP Naomi Long was threatened after her party, Alliance, voted on Monday to end the policy of flying the union flag 365 days a year. Alliance, a non-sectarian centrist party, holds the balance of power between unionists and nationalists on the Belfast city council; consequently, it often settles issues with its vote.
On the death threats she has received, Long said:
“This is not an attack on an individual or on a party, but a wanton attack on the democratic process. It is long past time that this vicious campaign of intimidation and violence was brought to a permanent end.”
Earlier on Friday, Clinton had backed Long, telling press:
“I know [Naomi Long] and am distressed about her and attacks on Alliance. It’s unacceptable. Democracy requires dialogue, compromise and constant commitment by everyone to protect the rights of everyone.”
Alas, those words fell on deaf ears. By Friday evening, police confirmed that two officers had been injured during clashes close to the city centre, and one man had attempted to drive a van through a loyalist roadblock manned by about 200 people. There were further reports of trouble close to city hall between loyalists and police.