Flags have been removed in a south Belfast neighbourhood after residents raised concerns about them appearing on lampposts.
Residents from the Four Winds area of Castlereagh were left “shocked and saddened” this week after they woke to the appearance of flags for the first time in more than a decade.
The flags on the Four Winds roundabout, Union Jacks and Ulster banners, were put up on Wednesday night.
It is the second time in a matter of weeks that flags have raised tensions in the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council after residents in Thaxton Village said they felt ‘intimidated by people marking out their territory’.
Meanwhile, it is understood that residents took matters into their own hands on Thursday evening when they “respectfully” removed the flags before placing them back on the roundabout.
Sinn Fein councillor Ryan Carlin said there was a “massive backlash” towards the move, adding that there was “zero support” from the local community.
He said: “The community here were disappointed yesterday when they woke up to these flags. They don’t support flags being erected of any kind. It’s a shared space for everyone.
“It’s an integrated area and there has never been flags for at least a decade or more in Four Winds, it’s not welcomed or wanted.
“I was getting complaints from everyone from a broad spectrum and I think everyone was in agreement that they needed to be removed.
“I can only presume that this was done in an attempt to mark territory to cause divisions and that has been resisted and rejected. I think the residents have been incredibly sensible in the manner in which the flags have been brought down.”
Alliance councillor Michelle Guy said the community “breathed a collective sigh of relief that the flags have come down”.
She said that “everyone has a right to celebrate their culture” but “erecting flags in a shared space was not appropriate”.
She said: “The community just wants to get back to normal now. I was overwhelmed by the volume of responses received from residents from all backgrounds and the strength of feeling expressed.”
“People who live in the Four Winds cherish that it is a genuinely mixed area and saw the erection of flags as an attack on this. I genuinely hope this is the end of the matter.
“Acts of provocation and intimidation aren’t welcome and help no one.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Michael Henderson said the flags were not erected to “intimidate” or “to mark territory” but “most likely” to celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland.
“I got a lot of emails and correspondence from people in the area who had said that they had lived there for over a decade and flags had not been put up,” Mr Henderson said.
“They were concerned because they weren’t consulted before doing so and they were very disappointed.
“I think it’s important that residents are consulted if anyone is putting flags up to try and get the views of the people who live in the area.
“People will know that this is the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland and there are always going to be more flags put up this year.
“I don’t think there’s anything deliberate or malicious about this particular act and I think it’s a good part of the celebrations.”
The Department for Infrastructure said they were unaware that the flags had been removed, saying they had received no complaints from residents.
A spokesperson added: “DfI has not been notified that flags were removed from lampposts in Four Winds or received any complaints regarding the removal of flags in the area”.
The PSNI have been contacted for comment.