'Gesture of goodwill' - UVF flags removed in Belfast estate where Catholics forced to flee
UVF flags in a Belfast shared housing development, in which residents have been threatened, have been removed as a "gesture of goodwill" a community group has said.
In the past week residents in the Cantrell Close area have been threatened with four Catholic families having to leave their homes.
Loyalist paramilitaries and dissident republicans have been blamed. The PSNI's paramilitary task force is investigating where the threats came from and if they were credible.
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The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) said "UVF 1912 commemorative" flags would be removed from around the streets of the neighbourhood as a "gesture of goodwill" following discussions with MP Emma Little Pengelly Little.
"In these discussions Emma re-iterated her strong desire to de-escalate tensions relating to the Cantrell close situation," a statement said.
"As a result of these discussions we have secured agreement with the local community to have the Ulster Volunteer Force 1912 commemorative flags removed. This has now taken place.
"These perfectly lawful and legitimate flags have been removed in this particular instance as a goodwill gesture."
The statement continued: "It is our belief that this will demonstrate the desire of the local loyalist community to de-escalate the tensions that we believe have been whipped up by Sinn Fein and Alliance in the south/east Belfast area.
"The East Belfast Community Initiative supports the right of the unionist community to fly all legal flags.
"We have been working with the east Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force ex-combatant group, which represents east Belfast and areas in North Down, Ards and Lower Ards as part of a wider positive development process envisaged by the Fresh Start agreement.
"These discussions will continue and part of that process will involve detailed discussions around potential future flag protocols."
In response Sinn Fein said the threats should be removed as well as the flags.
MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said: "It has also emerged that a threat has been made against a number of loyalist community workers and that is equally wrong and should be lifted immediately.
"There should be no place in this society for any form of sectarianism, intolerance or threats of violence."
Alliance has also been asked for a comment.
Belfast Telegraph Digital