10 June 2005


Police refuse to remove UVF flag

(Irish News)

Police have refused to remove an illegal paramilitary flag flying from a private home just two months after a promised crackdown on the display of sectarian flags.

The UVF flag, right, flying from the balcony of a high-rise flat, is visible to motorists on one of the main access routes to Belfast.

Commuters believe it should be straightforward for police to act against the tenant of the flat, as opposed to the difficulties in identifying those who attach flags to telephone poles and street lights.

But a police spokeswoman said officers would not remove the flag at Mount Vernon flats on the Shore Road, blaming the need for the cooperation of "local communities and statutory agencies".

Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF, said the police's inaction was symptomatic of a system that allows paramilitaries to rule areas.

"In Mount Vernon the UVF are a law onto themselves. They are a disgrace to the unionist cause. These people are totally immune to prosecution. They are holding the police and their own community to
ransom," he said.

"The majority of people in Mount Vernon are good, decent people but a small minority have turned it into a drug den and a place where murderers live.

"Nobody wants to see paramilitary flags flying. It's a disgrace – take it down."

In April a protocol was signed by police, the Housing Executive and government bodies to get rid of all displays of sectarian flags.

At the time, Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said: "The display of flags to mark out geographical areas of 'territory' or to promote sectarianism or to intimidate people is, and must remain, wholly unacceptable in a peaceful and tolerant society."

However, last night (Sunday) a police spokeswoman said while they were aware of the loyalist flag and were monitoring the situation, no immediate steps would be taken to remove it.

"We would stress that many of the issues surrounding the flying of flags cannot be resolved with the policing solution alone. They can only be resolved by local communities and statutory agencies working together to find an acceptable answer," she said.

"Where police action may be required, consultation and negotiation will take place with community representatives regarding local flying of the flags displayed and if required their removal."

A Housing Executive spokeswoman said it would speak to its tenant, as well as community representatives, in an effort to resolve the matter.

June 10, 2005

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