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Belfast Violence: Why Fly The Union Flag In Northern Ireland For Kate Middleton's Birthday?

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DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE
It is the Duchess of Cambridge's 31st birthday on Wednesday | PA

After five days of nightly violence in east Belfast, police are gearing up for a tense day as the Union Flag is flown for the first time since the controversy over its use, to mark the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday.

The occasion of Kate's birthday is one of the United Kingdom's official "flag days."

All Royal birthdays are marked, with spouses like the Countess of Wessex and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, included.

Other occasions traditionally marked by the flying of the flag is the Queen's wedding anniversary, her actual birthday and her official birthday, which are on different days.

Last month, Sinn Fein, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the cross-community Alliance Party all voted to limit the number of days the flag flies at City Hall, with all unionist members of the council opposing the move.

The flag will no longer fly continuously, but only on appointed days. A list of official days is on the Departement for Culture, Media and Sport's website.

Nationalist councillors had asked that the flag not to be flown at Belfast City Hall at all.

The Duchess of Cambridge's 31st birthday will be the first time the flag has been flown since the crisis.

union flag

Loyalist Protestors converge on Belfast city hall.

On Monday night, in a fierce debate over raising the flag at the height of the tensions, opposing politicians accused each other of political game-playing over the birthday flag-raising.

The flag issue was not on the formal agenda of last night's Belfast City Council meeting, but councillors did spend an hour debating the matter.

Democratic Unionist councillor for east Belfast Robin Newton accused McVeigh and Sinn Fein of "bulldozing" the flag vote through council.

"It was purely a political decision, a pure political decision," he said, rejecting the claims that unionists had not shown leadership.

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