Belfast Telegraph

SDLP members pull down and bin IRA sign - call on loyalists to do the same

SDLP members in Belfast have "decommissioned" an IRA sign, and called for reciprocal action to be taken for loyalist signs in the city's shared spaces.

Over the weekend SDLP councillor Tim Attwood tweeted an image of the sign - which had been placed at the corner of the Falls Road and Northumberland Street - discarded in a bin.

The Blackmountain representative wrote his party had taken the action after receiving complaints.

"Now let’s decommission offensive loyalist flags and banners from shared spaces across Belfast," he added.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Attwood said he and a party colleague had taken the sign down on Saturday morning, after similar action a number of weeks ago to remove an IRA symbol from outside the Royal Victoria Hospital.

"It is a small city, where staff and patients and carers come in their thousands everyday," he said.

"For the entirety of the Troubles hospitals have been shared spaces, and it is important that we protect shared spaces."

Mr Attwood said it was important to remove the IRA symbol on the Falls Road as its position on the corner of Northumberland Street was around 20 yards from the peace line which is often visited by tourists.

"It is an illegal symbol from the past which should be done away with," he said. 

"I think the broader message is that police should be acting to tackle illegal symbols and illegal flags. There is political leadership needed. Where there are illegal flags which cause offence - churches, hospital, schools - they should be taken down."

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey backed the removal of "flags or banners which are designed to intimidate".

"However statutory bodies have the responsibility to ensure that flags or banners should not be used to mark out territory, or harass or intimidate residents," he said.

"Sinn Fein also believes that flags should not be placed near churches, schools or premises and services which are shared by all the community.

"There is an onus on political unionism to show leadership on the issue of flags particularly when as some loyalist elements are placing flags in mixed developments in a bid to intimidate or raise community tensions."

It comes after kick back last week over banners depicting IRA attacks placed in a mix housing area of Belfast.

Images showing the Shankill Road bombing, Bloody Friday, and the Moutainview Tavern bombing were placed up around Cantrell Close and Global Crescent.

Chief executive of Radius Housing John McLean - which manages the residential area - called for the images to be "removed immediately".

PSNI Chief Inspector David Moore said police had been in contact with Radius Housing, and understood "flying of flags and banners can cause frustration in some communities", but it was not in a position to remove them unless they posed a "substantial risk to public safety".

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