Northern Ireland news

Principal disputes claim UDA flag erected 'at entrance' to Belfast primary school

One of the UDA flags erected in south Belfast in recent days

A PRINCIPAL has disputed a claim that UDA flags have been put up "at the entrance" to a primary school.

Loyalist paramilitary flags have been erected in the Malton Drive area off Malone Road, close to several schools in south Belfast.

Among the UDA flags is one beside a school traffic warning sign on a lamppost along Finnis Drive.

Taughmonagh Primary School is at the end of the nearby Findon Gardens.

On Sunday, SDLP councillor Donal Lyons said "dozens" of UDA flags had been put up in the south Belfast area including "at the entrance to a primary school".

"There can be no purpose in hanging these flags other than to glorify the terrorist acts of the past, and claim authority and control of an area in the present," he said in a press release, which included a photo of the flag at Finnis Drive.

He added: "The fact that these UDA flags have been put up at the entrance to a primary school and outside the local community centre where young children will be forced to pass under them is particularly outrageous.

"There is no justification for these flags to be up and no reason that they should stay up."

However Janet Douds, principal of Taughmonagh Primary School, branded the description of the flag's location as a "complete fallacy".

"The actual flag in question is on a school sign 0.2 miles from our school gates. It's a generic school sign for all schools in the area which include Harberton Special School, Fleming Fulton, Oakwood and Glenveagh.

"The actual roadway up into my school is Findon Gardens, and there is not one single flag on that entire street – there's nothing.

"As a school we are completely all-inclusive. We have Catholic parents who are more than happy to send their children here, and my fear would be that this would put other parents off.

"You have no idea how much this has annoyed our parents from both the Catholic and Protestant sides, because the parents know this is not a true reflection of what our school is and what it stands for."

In response, Mr Lyons said: "I completely understand the school principal's point and no school should have to get involved in a political matter of this type, which is why I didn't single out any particular school.

"The fact is though that there are a number of schools in this area some of which have paramilitary flags at their school gates.

"The fact is also that the sheer number of paramilitary flags throughout Taughmonagh means that no child is able to go to school, use the playground or move around the estate without passing under the shadow of the UDA."

A UDA flag flying outside Taughmonagh Community Forum Resource Centre

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