Belfast Telegraph

Anger over Union flag on Ormeau Road and outside Catholic school in Belfast - 'foisting single identity on shared space'

Former deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown has criticised the erection of Union flags in Belfast.
Former deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown has criticised the erection of Union flags in Belfast.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

An Alliance councillor described the erection of Union flags in south Belfast as an "attack on our shared space" saying the community was "wrongly having a single identity foist upon it".

He also criticised police for "refusing to challenge" those involved.

Former deputy lord mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown took to Twitter about the matter on Wednesday evening.

He posted pictures showing six people, including a young girl, around a lamppost on the Ormeau Road on a sunny, bustling evening.

In one picture the group can be seen standing around a set of ladders with one man in a Northern Ireland football top holding a Union flag.

In the other one of the men is climbing the ladder to attach the flat while two others offer support.

"Once again our shared and diverse community is wrongly having a single identity foist upon it," Councillor McDonough-Brown tweeted.

"PSNI drive past and again refuse to challenge this attack on our shared space. It’s wrong and people reject it each and every year."

He ended the tweet with #LoveSouthBelfast.

Last year it was reported a flags protocol had been agreed for the Ormeau Road area. It was set to see only Union flags and Ulster flags being flown from June to September. At the time Mr McDonough-Brown said it did nothing to build community relations describing it as a "slap in the face" residents.

Concern has been expressed about a flag outside a school in Belfast.
Concern has been expressed about a flag outside a school in Belfast.

His tweet on Wednesday received hundreds of reactions.

Some echoed the representative's sentiment saying it was an attempt to mark territory while others pointed out the flags were not paramilitary but rather a symbol of the Union and the "flag of our country".

One user who described himself as nationalist said he didn't have a problem with Union flags on a main route into the city ahead of the Twelfth as long as there was no paramilitary trappings.

One user said the issued was a "political problem and not a policing problem".

Police have been asked for a comment. However, on the flying of flags and banners earlier this week Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said it was not the responsibility of police to remove flags. He said the solution lay with community engagement and local decision-making.

Councillor McDonough-Brown could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning.

Sinn Fein also called on the authorities to deal with the flying of flags in the parts of south Belfast.

MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said the practice enabled behaviour which "divides people and intimidates communities" claiming it went against the wishes of the majority.

“There can be no turning back the clock in Belfast. Those who believe in shared, inclusive and diverse Belfast will not be pushed back into the dark days of division by yesterday’s men and women," he said.

Meanwhile, another Alliance councillor has expressed concern at a single Union flag being erected outside a Catholic school in east Belfast.

Sian Mulholland told the Irish News it was a clear attempt to "mark out territory" and called for its removal outside St Joseph's Primary School in Ballyhackamore.

PUP councillor John Kyle said the street was a parade route for a mini-Twelfth but said the flying of the flag appeared to breach an informal protocol in the area for not flying flags outside schools or churches.

"I think we need to keep a sense of proportion here... there are worse things that go on than a Union Jack outside a school," he said.

"It's not ideal but I think we need to keep a sense of proportion."

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