Belfast Telegraph

Bitter exchanges erupt over 'double-sized' Union flags

By Claire Williamson

As the parading season looms, a fresh row has erupted in Belfast over the flying of flags by loyalists which are "double the size" of last year.

Anger was voiced by a number of politicians as large Union flags appeared on lampposts across the city, specifically in the mixed area of Finaghy in south Belfast.

Sinn Fein said there was "a lack of political will within unionism to deal with contentious issues".

SDLP councillor Claire Hanna said many of her constituents found them "divisive and intimidatory".

Alliance councillor Paula Bradshaw said: "I think people are concerned that they are trying increasingly to mark out territory."

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said this year the flags were "practically double the size" of last year.

"In my view the actions of people who put these flags up in a way which is clearly intended to mark territory or to remind people where they are living are intimidatory and in my opinion have no place in respecting any tradition," he said.

PUP spokesman Winston Irvine said he wasn't aware of the flags being bigger in size. He said they were being flown ahead of an annual band competition and the Twelfth.

He added: "From the PUP point of view, we would prefer that there were flag protocols in place, and we would prefer that there were agreements around when, how and where flags would be flown."

DUP councillor Ruth Patterson said: "We will take no lessons or ridicule from Sinn Fein, SDLP or the Alliance Party on Union or Ulster flags being erected in the Finaghy area, or elsewhere for that matter. These same parties deliberately chose to go against the will of the people when they voted to remove the Union flag from City Hall in December 2012, and the repercussions from that sectarian and hate-filled decision is now being seen across Northern Ireland."

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