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Housing chief blasts IRA atrocity banners in Belfast's Cantrell Close as 'inappropriate' and calls for immediate removal

By Jonathan Bell

The chief executive of a social housing body has called for the immediate removal of banners depicting IRA atrocities in a Belfast shared housing area.

The banners around Cantrell Close and Global Crescent depict atrocities including the La Mon bombing, Ballymacarrett murder, Bloody Friday, the Mountainview tavern bombing as well as the Shankill and Enniskillen bombings.

All the banners carry the hashtag 'Stand up against sectarianism' - which had been used by Sinn Fein during its election campaign last year.

Alan McBride, who lost his wife and father-in-law in the Shankill bombing, described the move as "point scoring and grotesque whataboutery". While Gina Murray, who lost her daughter in the same attack, welcomed the move but said loyalist terror attacks could go along side them.

John McLean, chief executive of Radius Housing, which manages the housing area, said the imagery was not appropriate for a shared housing area.

“These banners should not have been erected and should be removed immediately," he said.

"There was no consultation with the people who live in this area and the imagery used is not appropriate for a shared living scheme which is home to families from all backgrounds. We strongly feel that this is not an appropriate way to display events of the past.

“We have been in contact with the PSNI, as well as local elected representatives, and our staff have been on site to ensure that everyone can enjoy living in their homes and local community without any type of intimidation. Our prime concern is the welfare of the people who live in Cantrell Close and Global Crescent, and they should not be the focus of a wider political debate."

The area has come under the spotlight after last year families in the area moved out of their homes after UVF flags were erected around the area.

Last month loyalist flags were removed. The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) said it had agreed a protocol on the flying of flags in the area. However, later flags were erected in the Ravenhill Avenue area which were said to have been put up outside the protocol and by an "unconnected private individual".

The latest banners have been erected by local members of the community with the support of EBCI.

Sinn Fein south Belfast MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has requested an urgent meeting of statutory agencies to respond to what he described as "ongoing attempts by loyalists to use flags and banners to intimidate and harass Catholic and nationalists residents".

He said: “It’s no coincidence that loyalists are targeting the shared housing schemes at Cantrell and Global. Theirs is the politics of division and subtraction. However, they cannot be allowed to defeat the vast majority of the people of Belfast who believe in the politics of addition and multiplication.

“Last year, the UVF in east Belfast forced several Catholic families to flee their homes at Cantrell. Shared housing and shared communities are a threat to the sectarian gangs who wish to divide our community. Everyone needs to stand with those at the receiving end of this intimidation.

“It’s crucial therefore that Radius Housing and the PSNI do more to counter the activities of these gangs.

“The political parties enabling the erection of flags to mark out territory and to intimidate and harass ordinary families need to speak out."

The PSNI has been asked for a response.

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