West Belfast surrounded by loyalist flags

By Francesca Ryan

Sinn Féin Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has made contact with loyalists in Finaghy in a bid to ease flag tensions ahead of the Twelfth.

Councillor Ó Muilleoir made the move after a number of double-sized unionist flags were erected in the Finaghy crossroads area. The flags went up late last week in an area that is home to both unionists and nationalists.

Loyalist flags have also gone up in interface areas where people enter and exit West Belfast – effectively surrounding the nationalist district in loyalist symbols.

Hitting out at the flag blitz in the mixed Finaghy district, the Balmoral Councillor said those responsible were trying to damage the cross-community ethos which is the bedrock of the village.

“They will not succeed,” he said. “I have asked for a meeting with the DUP, contacted loyalist community leaders and am seeking a meeting with the PSNI. However, none of us should allow these no-men to turn back the clock and create a no-go zone for democrats at Finaghy.”

Other parties including the SDLP and Alliance have also voiced concern over the supersized Finaghy flags, but the PUP has accused the parties opposed to flags in the area of “backtracking”.

 

Agreed

“Republicans,” said a South Belfast PUP spokesman, “are now publicly going back on the previously agreed community flags protocol at Finaghy crossroads, changing and backtracking on their stance of having no objection to union/Northern Ireland flags flying during marching season as long as no organisation flags fly.

“For a number of years this has been been implemented successfully. Union, Northern Ireland and Scottish flags, to welcome visitors and friends of the community who visit the area every year providing a great source of income to the local economy, have gone up at this time of year ahead of the annual band parade and to mark the traditional start of the marching season, the highlight being the Twelfth of July celebrations, an event close to the heart of the greater Finaghy community, both culturally and geographically.

“We urge Messrs Hanna, Bradshaw and Doyle of the SDLP and Alliance parties not to continue to be useful idiots to Republican ‘kulturkampf’ fanatics and help Finaghy crossroads become yet another SF-run unshared space.

“Our message to Sinn Fein is simple, where is this shared future? Where is this mutual respect? Talk is cheap.”

Meanwhile, UVF and union flags have been raised at Broadway around the Boucher Road junction with the Westlink. The location has witnessed violent scenes over the Twelfth in the past and the erection of the flags is being seen as an act of provocation.

Meanwhile, on Blacks Road double-sized flags have been erected close to the junction with the Stewartstown Road, also the scene of violence on the Twelfth in the past.

 

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