Northern Ireland

UDA flag display in Belfast condemned as Stormont accused of failing to tackle paramilitary emblems

Flags of proscribed loyalist paramilitary group have appeared in south Belfast ahead of the summer marching season

Flags in the Tate’s avenue and the Glenmachan Street area of Belfast.
UDA flags have been erected in the Tates Avenue and Glenmachan Street area of Belfast.

The flying of new UDA flags in south Belfast has been slammed as a “failure of leadership” by the Executive in tackling the problem.

Flags bearing the name and emblem of the proscribed organisation have appeared on lampposts in the Tates Avenue and Glenmachen Street areas.

Flags in the Tate’s avenue and the Glenmachan Street area of Belfast.
UDA flags displayed on lampposts along Tates Avenue in south Belfast.

Their appearance comes weeks after it emerged the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has received a 50% increase in requests to remove such emblems in the past year.

Despite the rise in demands for action, not one unauthorised flag had been removed, it was revealed.

Flags in the Tate’s avenue and the Glenmachan Street area of Belfast.
Flags erected on lampposts by loyalists in south Belfast's Tates Avenue area.

The SDLP’s Claire Hanna said the UDA was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people during the Troubles.

“There’s no place for organised crime gang emblems anywhere in 2024, let alone flying along main thoroughfares,” she told The Irish News.

Ms Hanna criticised the failure of the Executive to act on recommendations made in the report by the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition, which was published in 2021.

On paramilitary flags, the report said they have “no place within the arena of legitimate cultural expression”.

Flags in the Tate’s avenue and the Glenmachan Street area of Belfast.
A UDA flag among other flags on a lamppost in south Belfast.

“It is an acute failure of leadership that the Executive have not implemented the recommendations of the FICT report, which was fairly arrived at with engagement with all legitimate stakeholders,” Ms Hanna said.

In April, after the rise in complaints over flags to the DFI emerged, Alliance MLA Nick Mathison said further Executive failure to tackle paramilitary flags would prompt his party to pursue a Private Member’s Bill on the issue.

A DfI spokesperson said minister John O’Dowd was “committed to working with Executive colleagues and all stakeholders to deal with this issue comprehensively”.

However, they added: “The display of flags and emblems of a proscribed terrorist organisation is a criminal offence that may be capable of investigation by the PSNI, and anyone with information in regards the display of such items should contact the PSNI.”

The Executive Office has been approached for comment.

Despite the suggestion by DfI to report the flying of proscribed organisation flags to police, the PSNI has previously said removal of paramilitary emblems is not their responsibility and that officers will only remove them where there are “assessed risks to public safety owing to their erection”

A PSNI spokesperson said no recent complaints have been received about the flags in south Belfast.

“However, our Neighbourhood Policing Teams will continue to engage with local community representatives and partner agencies around these issues,” they added.