Okay, so I'm not sure if you guys outside of UK (or maybe even outside of Ireland) have heard about the current situation in Belfast. I haven't seen a thread on the topic here, so I thought I'd make one to enlighten you all on the current situation in Belfast. You can skip the next part if you don't want a history lesson.
As many of you probably know, Northern Ireland is a country that experienced extreme sectarian hatred and violence in a civil war called The Troubles (debatable if it was a civil war or civil unease, I think it was a civil war). The 'war' was fought between two sides, the Irish Nationalists and Republicans, and the British/Northern Irish Unionists and Loyalists. The main paramilitaries during the time were the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who fought against the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
By the time I was born, while not officially over, the violence of The Troubles had simmered down, and the two sides were in talks to share power in Northern Ireland. The Troubles officially ended when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.
Nowadays in Northern Ireland, sectarianism (technically hostility between Catholics and Protestants, but realistically hostility between Nationalists and Unionists) is, in my view, very low. I, an Irish Catholic, have never experienced sectarianism personally, and I'm friends with a lot of British people. As far as I know, none of my friends care about nationality or religion, we're just friends. And as far as I know, that's the general consensus of young people today.
History lesson over.
Recently in Belfast there have been a number of protests over the flying of the Union Flag at the City Hall. It's been flying every day since 1906, and, as far as I know, Buckingham Palace is the only other place in the whole of the UK to do this.
On 3 December, Belfast City Council voted to limit the days that the Union Flag flies from Belfast City Hall. The vote means that it will now be flown no more than 18 days a year. The move was backed by the Council's Irish nationalist Councillors and by its Alliance (neutral party) Party Councillors. It was opposed by the unionist Councillors.
As a response, loyalists and unionists have held protests throughout Northern Ireland. Some of these protests have become violent and sparked riots. On the night of the vote, protesters tried to storm City Hall. Alliance Party offices, and the homes of Alliance Party members, have been attacked. Belfast City Councillors have also been sent death threats, and riot police have been shot at by loyalist militants. The protests and riots have continued into 2013.
The protests have been pretty disruptive to me personally. There's been multiple occasions when I haven't been able to go into Belfast and just last night I wasn't able to go into my own town because protesters were blocking roads. The majority of the protests have been peaceful, but there have been a lot of riots. The protests have not only affected me and my friends, but also businesses. On the news there was a story about a laser-eye surgery that had appointments cancelled because of protests, and cafés and restaurants have seen less customers during the protests.
What troubles me about these protests is that I thought the days of sectarianism were behind us as a country. If a trivial thing such as a flag is able to cause so much unrest, then what happens if another, more serious issue arises one day? It's my opinion that if the Unionists want equality (many of the protesters are claiming this is a breach of their equality) then it's my opinion that both the Union flag and the Tricolour should be flown from the City Hall, it'd be a good way to show how far the countries come.
If you wanna look more into it you can use these sites which have recent news on them:
I'd like to see your opinions. I'm probably biased to the Irish side considering I'm Irish. What about you guys who haven't been affected at all by this, what do you think of it?
TL;DR: The Union Flag was taken from Belfast City Hall. There've been a number of violent and non-violent protests. What's your view?