Northern Ireland news

Provisional IRA 'D Company' flags in Belfast condemned

The flags were erected in the Falls area of west Belfast at the weekend. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

THE flying of Provisional IRA flags close to Belfast city centre has been condemned as an attempt to raise tensions.

Flags bearing the slogan 'D' Coy 2nd Battalion' appeared across the Falls Road at the weekend, including at the Westlink and outside Belfast Metropolitan College's Millfield campus.

The flags, which also include an image of a dog - a nickname used by 'D' companies of armies - had been removed from those locations yesterday, but remained in place from Divis Tower further up the Falls Road.

Based in the the lower Falls area of west Belfast, the IRA's 'D Company', which was once led by Brendan 'the Dark' Hughes, was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.

Hughes, who died in 2008, told interviewers from the Boston College oral history project that it was behind Bloody Friday, when the IRA detonated 19 car bombs in Belfast in the space of an hour, killing nine people and injuring 130.

DUP North Belfast MLA William Humphrey condemned the flags and said there "can be no pretence that these are in any way historic".

"It is particularly galling that they have been erected outside a Belfast Metropolitan College campus and provisions for homeless people at a busy junction on the verge of the city centre," he said.

"This is clearly an attempt to heighten tension. The erection of these flags should be condemned by all right-thinking people and I call for their immediate removal."

The flags have been erected ahead of republican Easter parades, which this year mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said it "had no involvement in the erection of these flags on a section of the Falls Road".

One party activist also criticised the flying of the flags online.

He said: "Erecting flags should be done for commemorative purposes only, not to aggravate a section of another community. Loyalists erect flags for a reaction at interfaces and contested areas; republicans shouldn't buy into this nonsense."

There were reports that loyalists from the Village area removed some of the flags, with posts on social media showing a group posing with the slogan "VTOT", believed to be a reference to "Village Team on Tour".

A residents' group also said a taxi driver had been attacked and beaten by a crowd who were removing tricolours and IRA flags, but police said they had not received a report of an assault.

Police said they were made aware of "a number of youths removing flags in the Divis Street area of west Belfast" just after 9.30pm on Sunday.

A spokesman added: "Police attended several minutes later but found no sign of any groups taking down flags, which were still up."

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