Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Ormeau residents 'threatened' by groups putting up flags for Twelfth

Residents of a south Belfast residential area have said there have been threats of violence from groups hosting flags in their area.

It is in relation to the erection of flags and banners in the Ballynafeigh area around the Ormeau Road.

In a statement, the South Belfast Residents for the Regulation of Flags said it was "extremely disappointed" to see flags put up in the Ballynafeigh area without consultation with local residents, and that there had been threats of violence from groups erecting the flags when challenged.

Flags and banners have been erected in the area after a controversial protocol  was announced by Ballynafeigh Union Forum, which was agreed between political parties DUP, PUP and Green Party, and representatives from a range of loyalist groups.

The agreement involved only Union flags and Ulster flags being flown in the area between June and September.

After the announcement, Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said the protocol would "bring no comfort to those who wish to see an end to the use of flags to harass and intimidate the majority nationalist community in the district".

The statement from the South Belfast Residents for the Regulation of Flags said: "We are extremely disappointed to see that flags have been hoisted on public lampposts throughout Ballynafeigh without any consultation with the local residents.

"We are witnessing the recent ‘Ballynafeigh Unionist Forum’ protocol in action, a protocol devised unilaterally by a group which does not reflect the diverse area. The protocol is an attempt to justify rebranding a diverse community as a single-identity neighbourhood throughout the summer months and beyond.

"...the erection of flags imposing one identity on a mixed area is an attempt to territorialise the area, leaving many residents feeling intimidated in their own community.

"Local residents have been threatened with violence when challenging those erecting the flags. The flying of flags needs to be regulated so that those hoisting the flags can be held accountable."

The statement notes the religious breakdown of the area is 57% Catholic, 27% Protestant, and 16% other.

It also points to a 2016 study carried out by Queen's University which found only around 10% of Northern Ireland's population were fully supportive of flags being flown on lampposts.

The report also found around 63% of respondents from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds found the unofficial flying of flags from lampposts to be either annoying or very annoying, with more than one third opting for the strongest expression of annoyance.

The residents' association also called on the PSNI, political leaders and other public bodies to intervene and remove flags from the area.

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