Belfast Telegraph

UVF should take down Belfast Cantrell Close flags: PUP's Billy Hutchinson

PUP councillor Billy Hutchinson
PUP councillor Billy Hutchinson
The UVF flags in Cantrell Close
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has said the UVF should take down flags in the mixed Cantrell Close housing estate in Belfast.

He was speaking after Belfast City Council voted to take legal action against the Department for Infrastructure for its failure to take down paramilitary flags and banners on its property.

Councillors on a committee at Derry and Strabane District Council voted on a similar measure on Tuesday.

In south Belfast UVF flags have been attached to lampposts in the mixed housing development in Cantrell Close.

Councillor Billy Hutchinson called for their removal.

He told BBC Radio Ulster Talkback: "I do not want to see the flags of the 36th Ulster Division or UVF flags as a form of intimidation. That's not what it's about.

"I think the UVF should remove those flags because there is no need to have them there."

Asked if he thought the UVF was behind the flags being flown in the area, he continued: "Even if they didn't, if they are their flags then they [the UVF] should remove them."

He said those commemorative 1912 flags were "totally legitimate" and it could not be argued they were "paramilitary".

"We need to get this into context," he added.

"The people of the Falls of the Shankill don't wake up in the morning look out and see what flags are flying. They have other issues. But see when you try to take those flags away, then it becomes their stake in society."

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Cantrell Close [File Photo]

Cantrell Close, just off the Ravenhill Road, was designed to be a flagship-cross community development as part of the Stormont Executive's Together Building United Communities programme.

In 2017, four Catholic families were forced to leave their homes due to UVF intimidation and threats after flags were placed around Cantrell Close.

The situation drew such severe condemnation from across the city that Northern Ireland's political leaders issued a joint statement calling for the threats to be lifted.

The then PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the UVF was behind the threats which forced the families out of their homes.

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