Belfast Telegraph

Alliance 'disappointed' by police response to UVF flags in Cantrell Close

The UVF flags in Cantrell Close
The UVF flags in Cantrell Close

An Alliance Party councillor has said he is "disappointed" by the PSNI's response to UVF flags at the Cantrell Close housing estate in south Belfast.

Several flags featuring UVF emblems were hung from lampposts in the area last month.

Councillor Eric Hanvey claimed that police had "taken the decision" not to remove the flags from the mixed housing estate.

He said that he contacted the Department for Infrastructure requesting the flags be removed after concerns from "local residents, community activities and elected representatives".

Councillor Hanvey claimed he had recieved a "detailed letter" from the department which suggested that the PSNI believed "there is no point in removing them as more will only be put up".

In a statement Inspector Keith Hutchinson said that the removal of flags was not the responsibility of the PSNI, but they are "committed to working with communities and partners to build a safe and inclusive society".

Inspector Hutchinson said that flags or banners flown required the consent of the person or organisation who owns the street furniture on which it is flown and that community resolution was the best solution to the issue.

"I can assure residents we will continue to work with communities and partners to find lasting solutions, however, police action on its own is not sufficient; we all need to work together for a confident, peaceful society," he said.

Councillor Hanvey said that the police response to the situation was "simply not good enough".

"Not only should the PSNI be taking a stronger stance against those determined to intimidate and threaten others, but to simply take a ‘what’s the point’ approach leaves little faith in any actions taken by police locally," he said.

Belfast's Cantrell Close
Belfast's Cantrell Close

“I am beyond disappointed at this approach and know the many who have chosen to live in a shared housing scheme will feel that same frustration.

"These flags are illegal and must come down, and I would challenge the local Community Policing Unit to either support the removal of these intimidating flags, explain this decision and publish the full advice given to the Department for concerned local people, or reassess their lack of action and take steps to remove these flags immediately.

"The way in which agencies and the PSNI constantly pass responsibility for illegal flags is extremely frustrating for those seeking their removal.”

Earlier this month Belfast City Council voted to take legal action against the Department for Infrastructure for its failure to take down paramilitary flags and banners on its property.

Cantrell Close, just off the Ravenhill Road, was designed to be a flagship-cross community development as part of the Stormont Executive's Together Building United Communities programme.

In 2017, four Catholic families were forced to leave their homes due to UVF intimidation and threats after flags were placed around Cantrell Close.

The situation drew such severe condemnation from across the city that Northern Ireland's political leaders issued a joint statement calling for the threats to be lifted.

The Department for Infrastructure has been contacted in relation to this story.

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