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Paramilitary flags are an insult to victims of violence

The recent BBC Spotlight programme highlighted problems of continuing paramilitary influence in North Down.

This takes many forms, but the most public is displaying paramilitary flags and other flags to mark out territory and intimidate the local community.

After the end of the Troubles, considerable grace was shown to paramilitary organisations and the least the wider community had a right to expect was that they disband and go into retirement.

For complex reasons, this has not happened, but some 18 years after the Belfast Agreement, progress is long overdue.

Perhaps North Down can establish good practice by ensuring that continuing paramilitary influence can be ended?

Political parties could take the lead on this by making a clear statement that the existence of paramilitarism can no longer be tolerated.

A flag protocol based on this principle could be agreed with the local community, based on examples of best practice which exist elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Paramilitary flags - loyalist or republican - are not acceptable. All political representatives need to make that abundantly clear and do what they can to get them taken down.

While they are still displayed, we should remind young people, in particular, what these emblems represent - more than 3,000 people dead, thousands more injured, 20,000 young people going to prison and infamous atrocities like La Mon, McGurk's Bar and many others. Continuing to tolerate paramilitary symbolism is deeply insulting to victims - many of whom are seemingly not going to receive either truth or justice for what happened to their loved ones.

It is an insult that flags are flown from lamp-posts and murals daubed on walls to celebrate the actions of various paramilitary organisations.

TREVOR RINGLAND

Holywood, Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

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