Calls mount for removal of IRA flags erected close to Belfast college
Emblems branded 'disgusting'
Unionist parties and Alliance have demanded that a large number of flags honouring the IRA should be removed from a Belfast city centre junction.
The bright green flags dedicated to so-called D Company were erected over the weekend. They feature a dog, a reference to an old nickname that members of that group were known by.
As well as festooning the Lower Falls area they extend to a busy junction outside the Millfield campus of Belfast Metropolitan College.
Disgust was expressed on social media about the flags with some claiming the IRA's D Company was responsible for a number of the most shocking outrages of the Troubles, including Bloody Friday and the abduction and murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.
It is unclear which group was behind the flags, which are believed to be part of the republican movement's commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising.
There are reports they were erected by people in the local community.
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Sinn Fein had no involvement in the erection of these flags on a section of the Falls Road."
DUP MLA William Humphrey has called for the immediate removal of the emblems.
"I condemn the erection of these flags which glorify terrorists and terrorism," he said.
"There can be no pretence that these are in any way historic. It is particularly galling that they have been erected outside a Belfast Metropolitan College campus and provisions for homeless people at a busy junction on the verge of the city centre." Mr Humphrey claimed the erection of the flags was an attempt to raise tensions ahead of the centenary of the Easter Rising this weekend.
"This is clearly an attempt to heighten tension. There is no place for these flags in the public arena in modern society," he said. "The erection of these flags should be condemned by all right-thinking people and I call for their immediate removal."
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has also called for the removal of the symbols.
"Paramilitary flags are a scourge in Northern Ireland and there can never be any justification for them," he said.
"We cannot simply turn a blind eye to the flying of such illegal flags. Public agencies such as the police, Roads Service and Housing Executive, alongside political representatives, have a duty to ensure communities are inclusive and welcoming, not promoting a climate of fear, which these flags clearly do.
"I would call on the authorities to remove these illegal flags immediately. Alliance has long called for cross-party support to tackle illegal flags and there is an urgent need for action to be taken."
TUV north Belfast Assembly candidate John Miller blasted the flags as "disgusting".
"D Company of the IRA are a pack of bloodstained murderers who have caused huge death and destruction in north and west Belfast," he said.
"The murderers of Jean McConville are not the sort of people who should be celebrated."