Loyalists’ use of confederate flags as a statement of racist hate has reinforced concerns over their use of flags to spread fear and intimidation over the marching season.
One confederate flag, erected on a lamp post in east Belfast, was described by the PSNI as a “hate incident”. The flag had been tied to a lamppost outside the home of a black family.
It was removed by the coach of a local football team after it was pointed out that a teenage member of the targeted family played for the club. Club members said they were were “disgusted” after the flag appeared outside the home of the 13-year-old in the Dee Street area of the city.
Confederate and loyalist flags have also been displayed by the Orange Order over the marching season.
And scores of loyalist and unionist flags intended to intimidate nationalists have been raised in interface areas, with the apparent support of the police.
Last summer, the PSNI said it would treat the erection of flags in the Ormeau Road area of south Belfast as a breach of the peace, but this year it entirely washed its hands of the issue.
The PSNI said flag removal was not a PSNI responsibility and they would ‘only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety’.
Loyalists claimed Union Jacks and “Ulster flags” erected in the mixed areas of south Belfast were placed there with the consent of the police.
South Belfast MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir accused the PSNI of colluding with loyalists to intimidate.
He said the public commitment to stop the flags being raised was repeated by the PSNI in private engagements with residents and Sinn Fein representatives.
“However, when residents on the Ormeau Road contacted police (last night) when a large group of up to 20 people were erecting flags, the PSNI arrived and took no action other than to facilitate this act.
“The Ormeau Road is a vibrant, multicultural community which in many ways sets an example for the city. No one has the right to mark out territory in this intimidatory fashion.”
Meanwhile, the socialist republican party eirigi have strongly condemned those who defaced a republican memorial in Newry. Sinn Fein’s Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady also condemned what he said was “an act of vandalism and sectarian hate”.
The memorial, situated at the site of the iconic Egyptian Arch ambush, was erected by eirigi to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the War of Independence operation which saw three IRA volunteers lose their lives. The initials of the unionist paramilitary UVF were sprayed across the memorial early on Tuesday morning.
eirigi’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney condemned the incident.
“The sectarian bigots responsible are only interested in stoking tension, particularly at this time of year,” he said.
“This memorial is in memory of three republican revolutionaries who were killed as a result of the ambush against the British forces of occupation at this location. The same occupation continues to this day.”