Belfast councillor ordered to remove burglary alert posters by TransportNI, which 'ignores paramilitary flags'
A Belfast councillor has denounced a Government body for ordering him to take down anti-burglary posters from lampposts while turning a blind eye to paramilitary flags.
SDLP councillor Declan Boyle put up 15 posters in his South Belfast constituency alerting local people to a rise in break-ins in the area and advising them to increase their home security.
However, within 48 hours of erecting posters in the Ormeau Road area he was ordered to take them down by TransportNI, the branch of the Department for Regional Development branch responsible for roads and street lighting.
TransportNI warned him that under Article 87 of the Roads Order he had acted unlawfully. Mr Boyle was ordered to take down the posters immediately or have them removed by officials at a cost of £50 each.
The SDLP councillor said: "I am amazed that TransportNI, which has ignored the flying of paramilitary flags on lampposts across south Belfast all year, suddenly swings into action because I put up a few posters highlighting burglaries. My posters aren't controversial and were intended to help everyone in the constituency. Yet TransportNI gets into a tizzy about them while sitting on their hands about UVF and other paramilitary flags flying in Tates Avenue, a main thoroughfare, and other places.
"TransportNI needs to seriously rethink its priorities. It must start tackling the offensive material on display in south Belfast, rather than taking the soft option of pursuing anti-burglary posters." Mr Boyle, who is chairman of the South Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership, said he had been inundated with people praising his signs.
"I took the initiative because I felt that the PSNI's response to burglaries in the area wasn't adequate," he added.
"The posters were the speediest and most effective way of raising awareness about home security."
The SDLP councillor said the posters were only a "temporary measure" and he had always intended to take them down.
"This is petty, bureaucratic point-scoring from TransportNI," he alleged. "They will probably next be pursuing people who erect posters on lampposts about their lost cats and dogs."
Mr Boyle also accused TransportNI of failing to intervene to remove material from "the very dangerous bonfire at Chobham Street" in east Belfast earlier this year.
"In my experience, they aren't interested in tackling difficult issues," he said.
"They'd be better off ensuring that the lights on their lamp-posts are working and Belfast streets aren't regularly plunged into darkness than spending time worrying about my posters."
A spokeswoman for TransportNI declined to comment on Mr Boyle's allegations that it was ignoring paramilitary flags and other issues, but restated that the agency would work to ensure the removal of his posters.
"We are aware of the signs erected by councillor Boyle. Following the receipt of a complaint we spoke directly to him last Friday and will be speaking to him again at the start of the week to discuss the removal of the signs," she said.