Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist terror flags flying outside Newtownards court - removal not PSNI issue

By Allan Preston

The erection of loyalist paramilitary flags outside Newtownards Courthouse have led to urgent demands for their removal.

It's understood two flags from the UFF terror group were displayed close to the entrance of the court building over the weekend.

Police received five reports about the flags, with further complaints made to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

Alliance MLA for Strangford Kellie Armstrong said the flags were intimidating to court users.

"It is appalling to see flags erected in support of any terrorist organisation," she said.

"The vast majority of people want to see all paramilitaries depart the stage, as there is no justification for their continued existence, never mind marking out territory in this way."

Ms Armstrong said she had also raised her concerns with the PSNI and Courts Service.

"The placing of these flags in particular could interfere directly with the administration of justice, as they could intimidate anyone using the courthouse itself," she added.

"People have the right to celebrate their culture, but paramilitarism has no place in our society. We cannot turn a blind eye to the flying of such illegal flags and urgent action needs to be taken to remove them."

Responding to the complaints, PSNI Inspector Claire McGuigan said: "Issues surrounding flags are best addressed through dialogue and engagement between agencies, including local police. Police action on its own is not sufficient - we all need to work together."

She continued: "The removal of flags is not an issue for the PSNI. Police will only act to remove flags if there are substantial risks to public safety.

"We work with communities and partners to respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where a criminal offence has occurred."

The NI Courts and Tribunals Service was contacted for a response but had not responded by the time of going to press.

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