Northern Ireland

Protest against flags in mixed estates in south Belfast

The Respect Shared Space Rally was held on the Ravenhill Road on Friday
Image caption The Respect Shared Space Rally was held on the Ravenhill Road on Friday

More than 100 people have attended a protest against the flying of flags in mixed housing estates in south Belfast.

The Respect Shared Space Rally was held on the Ravenhill Road on Friday evening after the erection of a number of flags, including UVF flags, nearby.

This area is one of the most diverse in Belfast but some residents complained the flags were an attempt to mark it as being from one side of the community.

Dominica McGowan, a rally speaker, said people found flags "intimidating".

"I have absolutely no objection to people hanging flags on their own homes but these are public facilities, lamp posts belong to all.

"I pay my rates, as does everybody else, and they have no right to be hijacked," Ms McGowan added.

Image caption Some residents complained the flags were an attempt to mark territory

Union flags and and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) flags have been erected on lamp posts on Global Crescent and Cantrell Close.

The housing developments are part of the Together: Building United Communities strategy.

The strategy, launched by the Northern Ireland Executive in 2013, was aimed at "improving community relations and building a united and shared society".

Resident Ann Dullaghan, who also attended the rally, said the flags "have to come down".

"It's time for change, it's 2017 and people need to wake up."

Image caption Union flags and and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) flags have been erected on lamp posts on Cantrell Close and Global Crescent

However, last week, the South Belfast MP said she had found no widespread demands for the flags to be removed.

DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly said she had visited about 100 homes and found mixed views among residents.

She said the majority of residents she spoke to "didn't want a public fuss around this matter".

However, the MP added that some residents had raised concerns and she "reassured those individuals that I would be here to support them as well, I would represent their views to the housing association".

Police have said that it is not their responsibility to remove flags.

Officers will only take them down if there is a "substantial risk to public safety".

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