Alliance holds meeting with PSNI over bonfires and flags

The Alliance Party met with senior PSNI officers at Police Headquarters on Friday morning, outlining a range of concerns about the recent issues around bonfires and flags.

The delegation included Councillor Michael Long, Councillor Michelle Kelly and Councillor Eric Hanvey as well as Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA and Policing Board member John Blair MLA.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Michael Long – Alliance Group Leader in Belfast City Hall – said the meeting was “necessary” after a number of issues arose around the failure to remove illegal flags at Cantrell Close, as well as issues around the Avoniel Bonfire and at other sites.

He said: “I’m pleased the PSNI has been able to accommodate a meeting so quickly after our request was made earlier this week.

“We stressed our concerns that there is a perception that the UVF has been seen to act with impunity over recent days and we were reassured that the PSNI are determined to follow up on leads and evidence that they have gathered around a number of bonfire sites.

“We also expressed our concerns that there continues to be a lack of concerted action by a range of statutory agencies with regards to these issues and that Belfast City Council was left by itself to deal with arising issues around bonfires over the July period. We stressed the need for better coordination next year and we all agreed that work needs to start on this now.

“When it came to Cantrell Close, we raised our concerns at the attitude of local PSNI officers to flags in that area, after official correspondence showed a reluctance to remove illegal flags as they’d probably be replaced.  This is simply not good enough and not what local people want to hear.

“Law and order must always be upheld and we were pleased to hear how the PSNI is planning to deal with the growing threat of paramilitarism across East Belfast.”