Mathews calls for flags to come down

ALLIANCE councillor John Mathews has called for all flags in the Larne area to be removed at the end of the marching season.

Cllr Mathews said: “Since I was elected, no other single issue has compared to the number of complaints I have received about flags and graffiti and murals.

“Paramilitary flags should never be flown, but all flags should be removed at the end of August before they become tattered eyesores. If they are not, then the authorities must intervene and take them down.

“This year there have been fewer paramilitary flags, but there have been problems in some areas. The celebration of a culture of violence has no place in any society. That is why there should be zero-tolerance for paramilitary symbols.

“If people are intent on maintaining their British status, it is a strange way of going about it. What do paramilitary flags do to maintain the union? It is a futile gesture.

“Paramilitary flags affect tourism and business here, and I know of one businessman in Larne who felt it prudent to relocate due to the image created.

“I do not believe the people who are displaying these paramilitary trappings have the majority support of the community. Certainly, they have had little electoral support to date.

“Erecting paramilitary flags is self-defeating, damages public morale and devalues areas.

“People naturally want to celebrate their historical traditions by displaying national flags too. However, they can create wider tensions within the community if left up for too long.

“People have every right to fly national flags from their own property. However, there is no justification for flags and bunting erected on public property to be left up for long periods after the marching seasons is over.

“All flags and bunting should be removed by the end of August when the marching season is over. If not, the authorities should intervene.

“The problem of sectarian flags, emblems and murals is a problem for all of society. Politicians must show leadership, and local communities should speak out. While responsibility cannot be dumped solely onto the police and a few other statutory agencies, there is a bottom-line responsibility for bodies such as the Roads Service and Housing Executive to ensure that their property is not used to create to mark out territory and to create a ‘chill-factor’.”

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