The editor of a nationalist daily newspaper was a key speaker at a unionist conference in Northern Ireland at the weekend.
At the conference, which was held in Lurgan in County Armargh, Noel addressed around 140 delegates and spoke about how the party could be taken seriously by the paper’s readership, which is largely nationalist.
He also told the loyalist party they had “got it wrong” over the protests held after Belfast City Council voted to limit the days the union flag was on display at City Hall.
The decision led to rioting in some areas of Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, including an incident where freelance press photographer Peter Morrison was injured while covering one of the demonstrations last December.
At the conference, Noel told delegates that the riots had added to a sense of incomprehension among many Catholics.
He said that the council’s move to limit the flying of the flag had been a “democratic decision”.
Noel said: “It was an unusual set of circumstances in that I am not really a public speaker and I wouldn’t normally expect that an editor would would be a speaker at a party political conference.
“We have been expressing some pretty strong criticism of the street protests that have been taking place. We have carried editorials directly criticising the PUP and saying they should start lobbying and engaging in dialogue.
“They said they would like to include us and the readers in the dialogue. They asked me to consider how the party might be taken more seriously by our readers.”
He said he was given a “very fair hearing” at the conference and suggested the party should seek to carry out lobbying and win support at the ballot box.
In January, the Belfast Telegraph launched a campaign to support local businesses affected by the protests.