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Images should be removed from shared housing scheme

Once again, loyalists have engaged in disgraceful activity which is clearly designed to intimidate people living in a shared housing development in south east Belfast.

Those targeting Cantrell Close and Global Crescent have little interest in fostering a society where people from a range of backgrounds can live side by side in relative harmony.

Last year there was an outcry after UVF flags appeared outside homes in the development, which was part of the Stormont executive's 'Together Building a United Community' programme. A number of Catholic families subsequently left their homes.

Last month paramilitary flags were placed along the nearby Ravenhill Avenue but removed within hours.

Meanwhile, the UVF-linked East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) announced a protocol which would restrict the period during which flags would be flown.

The question is whether this is a sincere attempt to ease tensions and improve community relations or a PR exercise with an altogether different agenda?

On Sunday banners depicting a number of IRA atrocities appeared in this shared space, a move plainly aimed at causing fear and unease.

Loyalist Jamie Bryson has defended this display as an effort to address a 'clear disparity' in terms of legacy.

There are a range of legitimate methods available to those wishing to properly highlight the murderous crimes of the past but what these appalling acts by the IRA have to do with the residents of a mixed housing estate is far from obvious.

John McLean, chief executive of Radius Housing which oversees the development, said there was no consultation with people living in the area and the imagery used is not appropriate for a shared living scheme which is home to families from all backgrounds.

He urged the removal of the images, something that would be supported by the vast majority of people who can see that this stunt for what it really is - a cynical bid to undermine the aims of this mixed housing scheme.

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