North Down Alliance Councillor, Stephen Farry, has called for a more pro-active approach from statutory agencies and the police to tackle the scourge of illegal paramilitary flags.
Speaking after the erection of a number of paramilitary flags in mixed areas, Stephen Farry stated:
“In too many parts of Northern Ireland, territory is being marked out by paramilitary flags. This risks turning our society into a series of ghettos rather common civic space, with the message that certain people are not really welcome here. These symbols are not just offensive to people perceived as the minority in certain areas, but also by many people who reject what is being done in their name.”
“At present, the passive approach from statutory agencies such as the Roads Service and Housing Executive, plus the police, is to wait for indications of community support before removing such offensive symbols. Being realistic, that’s not going to happen when there is an expectation of intimidation or worse by those who would speak out.”
“I believe that crimes are committed when these flags are erected and that the police should act when they see these offences being committed or when they are reported. Options open to them include arrests for actions likely to lead to a breach of the peace, road traffic offences, public order offences, and, under the recent Terrorism Act, soliciting support for a paramilitary organisation.”
“There are also civil duties on the Roads Service and the Housing Executive to remove paramilitary flags. Under equality legislation, all public bodies have a duty to provide their services in a neutral, non-discriminatory fashion.”