The erection of flags of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) in east Belfast represents a new low for loyalists as the level of intimidation has ratcheted up ahead of the height of the Protestant marching season.
The two flags were quickly removed by the PSNI after they began drawing the attention of international media. However, paramilitary flags erected alongside them were not touched.
Sinn Fein Councillor Niall O Donnghaile, condemned the appearance of the racist flags, which he said was all the more sinister given the spate of recent racist attacks and intimidation against families in thar part of the city.
“I welcome the fact that this flag has now been removed but we cannot allow the conditions to exist for people and organisations with clearly racist motivations to believe that it is okay to fly this flag from a public place.”
Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey added that all contentious flags should be removed. “The same rules should apply to all flags which are deemed by local communities to be offensive and unnecessary,” he said.
PSNI IGNORE PROVOCATION
Meanwhile, a loyalist flag provocatively erected in the grounds of a Catholic church in County Antrim has been replaced by loyalists, in the presence of the PSNI, despite being removed by local nationalists.
The flag was put up inside the grounds of the Church of our Lady and St John the Evangelist in Dervock earlier this month. Gates and kerbstones outside the church were also painted red, white and blue last weekend.
Moyle independent councillor Padraig McShane said he witnessed a PSNI patrol car sitting just yards from where a group of youths put up the flag. He said he watched as the PSNI failed to act.
“The PSNI were on site when the flag was put up in the chapel,” he said. “In a normal society those who perpetrate these acts would be arrested and charged but in and around villages like Dervock in north Antrim these grossly offensive acts are excused on the pretext of culture,” he said.
In Lisburn, loyalists said that the PSNI tried to stop them putting up flags on lamp posts on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast, but they backed down following a confrontation outside the local PSNI station.
Last month the PSNI declared that it would treat the erection of flags in a mixed residential area of the Ormeau Road in south Belfast as a breach of the peace, before also doing a u-turn and stating its policy had not changed.
A representative of the paramilitary UDA warned that if the PSNI were to treat the erection of flags on the Lisburn Road as a breach of the peace, loyalists would put them up “everywhere”.
“If it comes to the bit we’ll do everywhere,” said Billy McBride of the UDA-linked UPRG. “There is supposed to be a shared future and now they’re telling us we can’t fly the flag of our country.
“This is the way it started on the Ormeau Road... Are we going to be tramped on all our days? The Protestant people are being left behind and there’s flags of another country being flown.”
In west Belfast, meanwhile, a house has been covered in paraphernalia connected to a notorious loyalist death squad. A plaque glorifying the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA) was erected outside the house which is located on the lower Shankill Road. A fence at the front of the property is also adorned with flags glorifying the UFF, while UDA flags can also be seen flying from the house.
The leader of the PUP, which is linked to the paramilitary UVF, accused Sinn Fein of “double standards” following the appearance of a new mural in west Belfast depicting the funeral of IRA hunger striker Kieran Doherty. The artwork shows a volley of shots being fired over the Andersonstown man’s coffin.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said he was “astounded by the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein and republicans”.
“Every time a flag is raised in a loyalist area or a mural goes up on a wall, republicans lead the procession of criticism,” he said. “We are not against republicans commemorating their history as they see fit but they should allow loyalists to do the same.”