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Council backs legal action over offensive flags and banners

A banner in support of the Parachute Regiment on the Lisburn Road A banner in support of the Parachute Regiment on the Lisburn Road
By Conor McParland

BELFAST City Council last night (Monday) backed a Sinn Féin motion to take legal action against the Department for Infrastructure to remove offensive flags and banners from their property.
The motion, which was brought forward to a Special Meeting in City Hall by Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran Beattie, was backed by 34 councillors. Unionist parties opposed the motion with 18 voting against it whilst three People Before Profit councillors issued a “no vote”.
Proposed amendments from the SDLP, Alliance and PBP were all voted down with all parties seeking more clarity around the motion with a particular focus on ‘Soldier F’ and Parachute Regiment flags and banners.
Cllr Beattie, who is also Sinn Féin’s Group Leader on Belfast City Council, welcomed support for the motion.
“Paramilitary flags and other flags and banners supporting the British Parachute Regiment have been erected throughout Belfast in recent weeks and clearly are being used to divide, offend and cause hurt to victims, particularly as the Ballymurphy Inquest continues.
“Many of these flags and banners are attached to lampposts which are the property of the Department for Infrastructure who have failed to remove them.
“I welcome support from Council for our call for legal action to be taken to have these offensive flags and banners removed.
“As elected representatives we have a responsibility to protect the interests of citizens.
“As a council, we can no longer allow those that set out to divide the city and promote hate continue these actions. We should stand together. We shall do our best to make our city a good city, a city for all and an inclusive city.
DUP Group leader George Dorrian said taking legal action against the department would be a “mistake”.
“To try to force a government department to go down this way, we believe, will just heighten tensions and will serve to alienate a large section of the community,” he said.
“We don’t want people to fall into the trap of now going out and putting more banners up and trying to go against this situation. The only people that damages are the people who are in support of the banners.”

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