Belfast Telegraph

Not our job, says PSNI after city residents seek action over flags

By Rebecca Black

Police insist that removing flags is not their responsibility after a group of south Belfast residents demanded PSNI officers took action over the issue.

Scores of Union and loyalist flags were erected on the Ormeau Road and many nearby streets in June ahead of the annual Twelfth celebrations.

The South Belfast Residents Against Flags (SBRAF) claim it is time the authorities stepped in.

"The majority of residents oppose the erection of flags in shared spaces but feel too intimated to act. As a group, we've sought support from the PSNI and political parties and it's time that the authorities stepped in and listened to the voices of the majority," a SBRAF spokesperson said.

However, the PSNI said it is not for them to remove the flags.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: "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 SBRAF said an online petition created in June against the flags in the area received over 2,500 signatures, and that a rally in Cherryvale Park saw more than 200 attendees come together in opposition. In June SBRAF held a protest attended by residents following the erection of the flags in the mixed area.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna, Green MLA Clare Bailey and Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir were among the crowd, but there were no political speakers at the rally.

SBRAF founding member Dominica McGowan said: "The online petition and the rally show that there is clear community support to remove these flags in shared spaces.

"However, three months later and there is still no sign of these flags coming down. The Ormeau Road area is a diverse area and we do not feel it's fair to 'mark' the territory with unionist flags so we are asking for support for the flags to be removed."

The SBRAF said it "continues to build momentum and has recently seen a surge in interest following a call for support through leafleting in recent weeks".

It added: "The group have requested meetings with all political parties represented in south Belfast to voice their concerns over the issue. To date they have secured meetings with all parties except the DUP and UUP."

Belfast Telegraph

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