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New flags protocol reached for Ormeau Road 'to improve relations'


DUP MLA Christopher Stalford

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford

A new flags protocol has been agreed for the Ormeau Road in south Belfast.

It is set to see only Union flags and Ulster flags being flown from June to September.

The move, announced by the Ballynafeigh Unionist Forum yesterday, comes after a similar protocol was agreed for the nearby Ravenhill area.

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford welcomed it, saying he believes it will improve community relations.

He said yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that if any paramilitary flags go up in the area, he will call for their removal, and if necessary stand at the bottom of the ladder while they are taken down.

The protocol was agreed after talks between a number of political parties, including the DUP, PUP and Green Party, as well as South Belfast ACT Initiative, UPRG, members of the Loyal Orders, bands and the wider Ballynafeigh community which have been going on since Christmas.

It sparked a mixed reaction politically yesterday, with Green Party MLA Clare Bailey calling it a "positive development".

However, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said questions remain and Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said it was a "slap in the face to Ormeau residents", adding that he believes it "does nothing to build community in our shared space".

Ms Bailey defended her support, describing the Ormeau Road flags protocol as a "common sense approach to an issue that had a really negative impact on community relations over the last number of years".

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 agreed Ormeau protocol consists of five points, including flags should go up in the middle of June and be taken down no later than early September.

It also says the only flags to be displayed should be the Union flag and the Ulster flag, and that no flags associated with paramilitary groups should be displayed and that there should only be one flag per lamp post. The fifth point says that "out of respect" no flags should be placed on the lamp post closest to the entrance to the Catholic Church near Rosetta roundabout.

The Ballynafeigh Unionist Forum said they have made efforts to understand other people's traditions, and hope people will respect theirs.

Belfast Telegraph