Belfast Telegraph

DUP accuse Sinn Fein of attempting to 'raise tensions' over roundabout flags

DUP MLA Gary Middleton has accused Sinn Fein of attempting to "raise tensions" with its criticism of flags being placed on a prominent Londonderry roundabout.

In recent weeks there have been question raised after flags appeared on poles at the Caw Roundabout near to the Foyle Bridge on the city's Waterside.

The roundabout sits on one of the main thoroughfares into Derry, with it facilitating traffic from the city's airport and the north coast.

Union flags and the Ulster Banner have been erected on lampposts around the roundabout.

In a statement last week, local Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson said that the flags sent a "negative message" to people visiting the city.

"Claiming the right to celebrate any cultural tradition in our society should be totally conditional upon that being done with respect to the rights of others and without causing offence or giving disrespect," he said, adding that what was happening at the Caw Roundabout was "causing offence".

Responding to the criticism, Middleton said that the criticism of the flags were an attempt "to raise tensions in the Waterside and Newbuildings areas".

"They have been trying their best to create problems where there are none."

"There is no credibility in asserting your need to have your culture respected if you blatantly disrespect that of others," he added.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sinn Fein's Christopher Jackson said that Mr Middleton's statement was "disappointing" and that his aim was to "relieve the tensions and avoid situation like the one that we saw last year".

Mr Jackson explained that last year a number of "highly offensive flags" were erected in mixed-religion areas.

"It created flash points in areas that would have been relatively peaceful in the past," he said.

In previous flag-related incidents, the PSNI have stated that they do not have a role in removing banners or flags perceived to be offenseive.

In a statement, it said that it had received reports from members of the public about the flags on Caw roundabout.

Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “The flying of flags in public places is an issue that provokes a range of strong responses and very different viewpoints. The type of flags flown, how, where and when they are flown are all important considerations.

“The reality is that while we understand the public’s frustration in this matter, Police will only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety. Until the 'Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas' is updated, we will continue to work with communities and respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred."

Superintendent McCalmont also various stakeholders "all need to work together" to help preserve "public safety and prevention of disorder".

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