Northern Ireland

DfI urged to "take lead" in removing flags from its property

Flags have been put up on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.
Flags have been put up on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.

A Stormont department has been urged to "take the lead" in removing unionist flags from its property.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw singled out the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) after Union and other flags were hung from lampposts along the mixed Lisburn Road area of south Belfast.

The road is part of the route taken by Orangemen during their annual Belfast Twelfth parade.

A large number of flags line part of the route, which includes retail outlets and residential properties.

Flags have also been placed in front of the PSNI station.

Ms Bradshaw questioned the continued use of public property for flag flying.

“I suspect had there been consultation with the local community, the placement of such flags specifically for the duration of the Twelfth would have been relatively uncontroversial," she said.

“However, their placement with no such consultation on public property cannot simply continue to be tolerated."

She also urged the DfI to deal with the vexed issue.

"The tradition is flags be placed on private property at this time of year, but the abuse of public property for the purpose without regard for local views must stop," she said.

“It is time the Department for Infrastructure took the lead on removing flags from its property which have been placed with no regard for widely agreed Protocols, such as that proposed by the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition, on which all parties were represented.”

Earlier this week nationalist politicians called for similar flags to be removed from lampposts in the upper Ormeau Road area of south Belfast.

Stormont minister and MLA for the area Deirdre Hargey said the flying of the flags was "a clear attempt to raise community tensions" and called for them to be removed.

SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna criticised a lack of action at Stormont over the flags issue.

"Ormeau, as with south Belfast as a whole, is a diverse and shared neighbourhood where people of all political outlooks and none live side by side, including unionists and loyalists," she said.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said police will continue to work with communities but officers' powers are limited.

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “Article 87 of the Roads (NI) Order 1993 makes it an offence to attach unauthorised flags, signs or advertisements to structures such as lamp posts. One of the Department’s primary considerations is the safety of the public and where unauthorised flags or attachments pose a safety hazard to road users, the Department will seek to remove that danger. When complaints are received the Department will work closely with the PSNI and other key stakeholders. The display of a flag of a proscribed terrorist organisation is a criminal offence that may be capable of investigation by the PSNI.”