Man charged over threat to Northern Ireland first minister

Belfast Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:52pm GMT

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson arrives at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, Northern Ireland January 26, 2010. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson arrives at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, Northern Ireland January 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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Belfast (Reuters) - A man was charged on Wednesday night with threatening to kill Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, as loyalist protests passed off peacefully for the second day in a row following a recent wave of violence across the province.

Loyalists have rioted for seven of the last 10 days, and made an attack on police, since a decision by nationalist city councillors earlier this month to remove the British flag from Belfast City Hall, for the first time in a century.

The 34-year-old was charged with making threats to kill and improper use of a public electronic communications network, a spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

The threat was made indirectly by phone against Robinson, who leads the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to a third-party, police said. He is expected to appear before a court on Thursday.

Threats were also made on Tuesday against two other DUP members - British member of parliament Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots, a member of Northern Ireland's parliament - by militant Irish nationalists.

Police have not disclosed whether the threats against Robinson were made from a dissident or a loyalist source.

So far police have arrested 40 people in connection with the most widespread pro-British street violence for years and 29 police officers have been injured.

A policewoman escaped injury when a loyalist mob attacked her car on Monday and threw in a petrol bomb while she was still in the vehicle.

Catholic nationalists share power with predominantly Protestant Unionists in the British-controlled province under a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian violence that killed 3,600, with Unionists controlling the post of first minister thanks to their majority.

(Reporting by Ian Graham; Writing by Stephen Mangan; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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