Leading article

Firm policy needed on provocative symbols

It is essential that both the nationalist and unionist traditions give careful consideration to the display of symbols which are capable of causing offence in our divided society.

The IRA in the post-1916 period was very different from the organisation which re-emerged in 1969 and there are no valid comparisons between the versions of the Ulster Volunteer Force which were launched in 1912 and declared illegal from 1966 onwards.

Producing a flag which directly names either the IRA or the UVF has a particular meaning in the modern era, and trying to pretend that such a reference is in a purely bygone context simply cannot be accepted.

While it may be impossible to prevent occasional provocative street level displays by elements from different sides, we are entitled to expect that the statutory authorities will take a firm line on related issues.

It was therefore deeply disappointing to note suggestions that waving a flag identifying the UVF during a gathering at Carrickfergus Town Hall might be viewed in a historical context by Mid and East Antrim Council.

Placing such an emblem on a lamppost in a mixed area in the middle of the night may present difficulties but flaunting it on civic property deserves a completely different official response.

Acronyms like the UVF and the IRA have a particular and unmistakable significance which is likely to provoke a sharp response and should never be downplayed.

A review of booking policies on the part of Mid and East Antrim Council is likely to follow and the least that can be expected is that it will prohibit attempts to promote banned organisations.

Councils which hold responsibility for public buildings should be able to firmly demonstrate that they will be administered in a way which commands respect in all sections of the community.

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