Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena tricolours provocative: Allister

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

TUV leader Jim Allister has said the erection of Irish tricolours in areas of Ballymena is an attempt to raise tensions.

Mr Allister was speaking after the flags were put up in a number of areas on Monday, including at a roundabout outside the Ecos Visitor and Conference Centre.

He described it as a "provocative display" and said the flags were designed to "claim territory".

The North Antrim MLA also questioned the timing of the move ahead of Ballymena United's Europa League qualifier with Faroe Islands side NSI Runavik tomorrow.

"It will also offend many football supporters, who will be attending Ballymena Showgrounds this Thursday," Mr Allister said.

He added: "The concerted effort to increasingly claim the north of Ballymena as republican is designed to make remaining unionists uncomfortable in their own town and must be resisted.

"I hear much from Sinn Fein about equality and respect, but no thought for those deliberately discomforted by this aggression."

Mr Allister is the latest politician to raise the issue of the flying of contentious flags in the lead-up to the summer months.

At the weekend a flag erected on south Belfast's Lisburn Road in support of Soldier F drew the anger of nationalist and Alliance politicians. Soldier F faces prosecution for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday.

Yesterday, PSNI assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said that the "flying of any flag or banner should be carried out with the consent of the person or organisation who owns the street furniture or property on which the item is flown or displayed".

"Police will act to support the removal of banners by those who have responsibility for a structure on which the item is displayed, but we will only consider removing such items ourselves where there is an imminent and immediate likelihood of a breach of the peace," he said.

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