Sinn Fein has accused the PSNI of ‘facilitating sectarianism’ by allowing the ‘marking of territory’ in Lurgan town centre with flags.
MLA John O’Dowd said the marked territory is greater than previous years and said town centres should be a space for all.
“Flags should not be used to intimidate our neighbours. At a time when council, elected reps and other relevant agencies are working tirelessly alongside local traders to increase investment and footfall into our town centres these intimidatory actions are simply unjustifiable,” he said, calling on those with influence to seek their removal.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly added that the ‘increased flags’ is not about ‘Britishness’ nor a celebration of culture, rather it is about marking out territory. “It tells me and many others that this is an unwelcome place. However, more than that I believe it is symbolic of a lack of confidence with the unionist community, as Peter Robinson repeated recently, the demographics are changing fast and it is in all our interests to work together to build a shared society where all feel comfortable and at home.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie accused some politicians of ‘attempting to ramp up tensions between communities’. It is clear that when Irish and republican paramilitary flags went up around the Easter Rebellion commemorations the same elected representatives remained silent and this silence is indicative of how they view the issue.
“Many individuals have worked hard to reduce the number of paramilitary flags while at the same time stop flags going up at community interfaces.”
DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said Mr O’Dowd’s comments were particularly unhelpful and only serve to create a further divide between our communities.
“If they want to show respect for our culture then respect our flag, as we see ourselves as British, our national anthem and use the name of our country, Northern Ireland.”