Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

PSNI urges political deal on flags

Ulster Volunteer Force flags in east Belfast

Police have responded to criticism over the erection of scores of flags in east Belfast by insisting that only political agreement can secure a long term resolution to such issues.

Officers had faced questions on why groups of men, some allegedly masked, were able to direct traffic over the weekend while they used a cherry picker to put up Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) flags along the route of a scheduled parade in the area.

Organisers insist the flags relate to the original UVF, established in 1913 in the middle of the Home Rule crisis, and are nothing to do with the paramilitary organisation that adopted its name in the 1960s.

Saturday's parade commemorates the centenary of the resistance force's establishment.

Many members of that UVF went on to fight in the British Army in the First World War as part of the 36th Ulster Division.

But critics have branded the weekend flag erection intimidating, claiming there was no consultation with local residents.

Police do not consider the activities constituted criminal behaviour. A PSNI spokesman said the flags were "not related to a proscribed organisation".

He said senior officers would be meeting with community and political representatives together with parade organisers to address any concerns.

"Parade organisers have given their assurances that these flags will be removed immediately following next Saturday's parade," he said.

The spokesman pointed out that First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were currently reviewing protocols around the display of flags in public areas.

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