Belfast Telegraph

Terror flags 'a concerted campaign of intimidation' in Northern Ireland

By Deborah McAleese

Sinister paramilitary flags have been erected across north Down in a "concerted campaign of intimidation".

Many parts of the constituency, including Bangor and Ballygowan, have been awash for several weeks with UDA and Red Hand Commando flags.

Despite complaints from furious residents, no action has been taken by the PSNI or the local council to remove the flags and pursue those responsible.

"Local people are very concerned about the prevalence of these flags, particularly in the Kilcooley and Whitehill housing estates in Bangor.

"Residents are feeling very intimidated by these flags. But the council has concerns about the safety of council officers should they go in to remove them," said Independent councillor for the Bangor area Noelle Robinson.

"The flags are very prominent and it is the worst I have seen in many years," she added.

A resident of the Kilcooley estate in the town said he believed there was a "concerted campaign of intimidation".

"These flags promoting illegal paramilitary groups are being erected right across North Down and nobody is willing to do a thing about it," he said.

The resident added: "We just keep being told that the police, the council and all these different agencies are working with local representatives to get them down. But how can you reason with people who put these type of flags up? I mean, its the Red Hand Commando flag. That says it all, really."

The Red Hand Commando has been officially on ceasefire along with the main loyalist paramilitaries since October 1995. The group was involved in a number of murders and violent attacks during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

"We need clear agreement on how to deal with this issue at Stormont," said Green Party MLA Steven Agnew.

"It is never acceptable to put up a flag of an illegal organisation. Residents are feeling intimidated," he added.

PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee said that "until the 'Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas' is updated, police will continue to operate within the principles of the 2005 protocol."

He added: "This requires agencies to engage with communities to try and resolve situations, but the PSNI will continue to act in accordance with the law."

Meanwhile, in Coleraine a council chief has said he is too concerned for the safety of his staff to ask them to remove paramilitary flags from public areas.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council was asked by a member of the public to remove UDA flags recently erected in the town.

However, council chief executive David Jackson said that to do so could put his staff at risk.

Belfast Telegraph

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