At a special meeting organised by the Botanic Councillor, the PSNI confirmed they had overturned a 2014 decision to treat the placing of flags on lampposts in the area as a breach of the peace – a move that had signalled a step change in the attitude of local officers.
Councillor Emmet McDonough Brown said: “While I am disappointed, I am not surprised at the PSNI’s complete lack of support for local residents. PSNI removed an Irish tricolour from a war memorial in Dungannon this week – so clearly they have the power to remove flags and exercise an unarticulated discretion in doing so. Their decision not to act in defence of shared space along the Ormeau Road is underwhelming and residents will be deeply disappointed.
“Following the decision last year there was an expectation that the PSNI had finally moved forward and recognised their role in protecting local people from intimidation. Sadly, everyone who put their trust in them has been severely let down. These attempts to demarcate territory should be exposed for what they are – retrograde and unacceptable.
“Alliance has been on the ground, listening to local people’s concerns and there is a real feeling of discontent and a growing lack of confidence in the PSNI. Rather than show leadership, this weak decision has the potential to raise tensions and could put the safety of local residents at risk.
“I will continue to push the PSNI to fulfil local expectations as no-one wants to see flags used in an aggressive manner to mark out territory.”