Calls for action after UVF flags erected again at Cantrell Close
THERE were calls last night for "firm action" to remove UVF flags erected in a shared housing development in south Belfast.
The paramilitary flags, along with Union and other flags, appeared in Cantrell Close off the Ravenhill Road.
It is the third year in a row that flags at the mixed development, which was part of the Stormont Executive’s ‘Together Building a United Community’ programme, have caused controversy.
Two years ago, there was an outcry when UVF flags appeared outside houses, with a number of Catholic families subsequently leaving after receiving threats.
Last year UVF flags were erected on lamp posts in the nearby Ravenhill Road and Ravenhill Avenue areas, while banners appeared at Cantrell Close depicting republican attacks during the Troubles.
There have also been calls recently to remove flags and banners flying in mixed areas in support of 'Soldier F' facing prosecution over Bloody Sunday killings, including a banner across Lisburn Road in south Belfast.
Alliance councillor Michael Long last night said it was "totally unacceptable that any flags are flying from lampposts and in this case, it is particularly disturbing it is paramilitary flags".
"This is now the third year in a row there has been an attempt to intimidate those who want to live in a shared neighbourhood," he said.
"This is totally unacceptable. I would like to see enforcement action being taken and the flags removed.
"My party colleagues have met with police and the Department for Infrastructure in the past week to ask them to take firm action against the flags and unauthorised banners right across Belfast."
SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite said it was "deeply concerning that we are going to spend another summer arguing about flags and particularly paramilitary flags and banners, bringing a much more sinister element to the usual marking out of territory".
"Whether it is (IRA) D Company flags on the Falls Road or UVF flags in east Belfast, no paramilitary symbols should be acceptable and I would call on all political leaders in south Belfast to endorse the taking down of these paramilitary flags by the Department for Infrastructure."
Sinn Féin assembly member Mairtin Ó Muilleoir said the flags "serve only to intimidate and divide our community"
"While the police fail to act, the reality is that they know this marking out of territory has the support of paramilitary groups in south and east Belfast," he said.
"Indeed, the main reason the Department of Infrastructure gives for not removing flags and banners from its property is fear of paramilitaries."
He added: "There can be no turning back the clock in Belfast. Those who believe in shared, inclusive and diverse Belfast will not be pushed back into the dark days of division by yesterday’s men and women."