A loyalist area of South Belfast has come in for criticism for the flying of paramilitary flags despite a separate move to paint over a highly contentious mural in the area this week. South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt has called for immediate action in removing UVF and UDA flags flying from private houses in Sandy Row just as the area also received positive attention for painting over an infamous UFF mural on the edge of the loyalist stronghold.
UDA chief Jackie McDonald said the removal of the ‘You Are Now Entering Loyalist Sandy Row’ mural was evidence of attempts to re-image the Sandy Row and attract investment from businesses, who were previously reluctant to set up in the area.
However Conal McDevitt insisted that people in South Belfast are intimidated by paramilitary flags in the area, despite a denial from a unionist politician that they are on display.
“I am disappointed to see these flags flying in South Belfast, as they simply serve to intimidate people. I would appeal to all those in positions of leadership within the unionist community, political, civic or otherwise, to assist in their early removal,” he said.
South Belfast Alderman, Bob Stoker says that whilst he has not seen any paramilitary flags in South Belfast, he feels that it is a subject that must be addressed with respect and regard to all communities.
“Where flags go up must be dealt with in a sensitive manner. We need to encourage people to discuss the impact their actions will have on other people and have an understanding of why paramilitary flags are erected in the first place.”
The executive’s Cohesion, Sharing and Integration document stated there would be ‘zero tolerance on paramilitary flags’
The PSNI claim there has been improvements in a cross community approach to flag flying.
“The issue of flags is a very difficult and emotive one. Through work with in South Belfast, we have facilitated engagement in relation to the flying of flags in public areas. Over the course of the last number of years, this engagement and negotiation process has had a positive impact.”
On the removal of the Sandy Row mural Jackie McDonald said the area was “putting on its lipstick and make up” to attract investment
“We want to put the heart and soul back into the Sandy Row,” he said. “The area is so close to the city centre and we feel there is no reason why the Sandy Row cannot be developed into an attractive area for businesses.”