Belfast Telegraph

Belfast council flag debate illustrates 'difficult issue,' say Stormont officials

The banner on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast
The banner on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast

Stormont officials said a council debate on the flying of flags and banners demonstrates how the matter continues to be a "difficult issue" for many people.

Belfast City Council is to take the Department for Infrastructure to court in a bid to force it to act on removing banners and paramilitary flags from its property. Such as lampposts.

It comes after the outcry over banners supporting 'Soldier F' appeared across Northern Ireland and paramilitary flags erected around shared housing developments.

Following the debate on the motion a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said:  “As the debate in the council chamber has illustrated, the illegal display of flags/banners continues to be a difficult issue for many people.

“It is important to note that it is an offence for any flag or banner to be attached to a street lighting column owned by DfI without the express permission of the Department.  We do investigate complaints and take action if displays create road safety concerns.

“In line with current policy and as set out in the Flags Protocol, we will also take action to arrange for the removal of flags and banners where there is clear community support for their removal and where we are satisfied that removing them will not further raise community tensions or present risks to the safety of our staff and contractors.  We work closely with colleagues in the PSNI in reaching such decisions.

“However, although we may have the power to prosecute, the reality is that prosecution does not solve the underlying factors that give rise to such displays and we need also to be mindful of the broader issues including heightening of community tension and compromising the safety of our staff.

“We have noted and are considering the outcome of this evening’s debate.”

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