The flag was raised quietly at around 4am (GMT) in honour of the Duchess of Cambridge's 31st birthday. The cost of policing flag riots and protests in Northern Ireland since they began on December 4 has been estimated to be over £7m ($10m).
Loyalists, whose allegiance is to Queen and Great Britain, have reacted in fury since council leaders in Belfast decided only to raise the Union flag on designated days. Previously the flag has flown all year round but now it will only be raised for 18 specific days, mainly royal birthdays, St. Patrick's Day, Remembrance Sunday and Commonwealth Day. But a controversial decision by the Alliance party to back proposals to raise the flag on certain days only, has left the unionists seething with anger.
Although the flag itself is difficult to see fluttering over City Hall, it was the symbolism that has angered so many in Northern Ireland, as national identity in the province remains a source of deep division. When the flag is lowered down again on Thursday, Ulster will brace itself for another round of rioting
, brick-throwing and general disorder.
reports, that the number of threats to politicians, in particular Alliance MPs and councillors has been happening almost daily since December 3 last year. The economy has also suffered badly in the region with many pubs and restaurants in east Belfast reporting takings down as much as 30%.
The Telegraph reports more than 60 police officers have been injured in protests related to the decision to not display the Union flag permanently, in the last five weeks, with around 100 people