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Lack of will to uphold law over flags and bonfires

Published 22/02/2016

I very much welcome the public discourse on the flying of flags and emblems for a maximum of two weeks and only with the consent of the community where they are proposed to be sited.

Hopefully, it would be a further step towards zero tolerance for the hijacking of our streets and avenues in the name of intolerance and bigotry disguised and delivered as culture.

My genuine concern is: who will enforce these policies should they ever miraculously become law on the Hill?

With a complete lack of political will from our political police force, how will we ever help create a more tolerant, less sectarian society?

I would propose Camp Twaddell would prove a perfect test case for any new legislation placing restrictions on the display of flags and emblems.

This illegal camp is facilitated by the state, from the Housing Executive to Belfast City Council cleansing department to the PSNI.

I have had personal experience of the failures by state agencies to uphold the law with regard to hate crimes and illegal bonfires.

In 2014, I ran as an Independent Socialist candidate in the Castle Ward for Belfast City Council. During the election campaign, several of my election posters disappeared - subsequently to reappear on the Mount Vernon bonfire.

I informed the police, who confirmed to me that they were treating the matter as a hate crime.

During further conversations, I expressed the view that it was unacceptable that my posters would be set alight in front of a cheering mob, to which the police response was: we will not be taking the posters down and should anyone (presumably me) try to regain my lawful property, climb the bonfire and recover the posters, they would be subject to removal from the area and arrest for breach of the peace.

Who enforces the law when those charged with doing so abdicate this responsibility? Does this mean they tacitly agree with the bonfires, or is there a concern for their personal safety, as the majority of the PSNI live in and come from the PUL community?

FRA HUGHES

Belfast

Belfast Telegraph

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