Lagan Valley DUP accuses Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance of starting “culture war” over Lisburn flags

The DUP in Lagan Valley has accused three other political parties of attempting to raise tensions with its criticism of flags being placed on a prominent Lisburn roundabout.

Union flag

Questions have been raised after flags appeared on poles at a roundabout near Thaxton Village in the Killultagh DEA.

The roundabout sits on one of the main thoroughfares into Lisburn city, with councillors branding the erection of flags in the area as a way to ‘intimate’ local residents.

Union flags and the Ulster Banner have been erected on lampposts around the roundabout close to a number of mixed-neighbourhoods.

The area has seen a large number of homes built over the past few years including the Wallace Village development.

The DUP has accused Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Fein of trying to ‘demonise the community’.

In a post published on Facebook, Lagan Valley DUP said “the local community have the right to express their cultural heritage”.

The full post, which pictured Lisburn south Cllrs Alan Givan and Paul Porter, read: “We the local DUP Councillors that represent Killultagh and Lisburn South, agree that the local community have the right to express their cultural heritage.

“There is a long history in this area of flags and bunting being flown during the summer months.

“The people of this area are loyal people who are proud of their British culture and have pride in the national flag.

“The Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Fein Parties have no right to attempt to demonise this community.

“We all know that this is a culture war and all things which represent our Britishness, are deemed offensive.

“All countries in the world fly their national flag, why can’t we?”

However, Sinn Fein Cllr Gary McCleave refuted the claims and said it was a ‘clear attempt to mark territory in the area’.

“This is not what the people of this area want and I have had people contact me who live in that area and this is not something they want to be associated with.

“The DUP say that this is a culture war but it’s not, absolutely not. I am trying to represent the views of the people in that community who feel like this is an attempt to be intimate.

“I will stand up for those people and I have already called for those groups in the Ballymacash community to meet with us to try and find a solution. That hasn’t happened so far and It doesn’t appear like it will.”

Alliance Cllr David Honeyford said the DUP were “out of touch” with the residents in the area, adding that it was “another pathetic attack by the DUP on Alliance over flags.”

He added: “What we have here is Alan Givan and Paul Porter, two Lisburn south councillors, coming into a neighbouring DEA and raising this issue. It’s a stunt and it’s not welcome.

“What councillors from right across the district should be doing here is working together to try and find solutions to issues like this. We need to recognise that this is a shared space.

“I am in no way against cultural celebration or expression but in this case I have been contacted by multiple families and individuals, many from a unionist background, and they’ve made a point of telling me that, and they are not happy with this.

“They disagree with the curbs being painted and flags being erected in what is supposed to be a space for both sides of the community. There’s three flags for every lamppost.

“Their message from them to me is clear, they don’t want this because it lowers the look of the place. They aren’t happy in what has been the disrespectful ways that these flags are being used against others and the message that is being sent out.

“It goes from the point of saying that you are showing cultural expression to actually being intimidating to the local community.

“I have had well over 100 messages from people in that area from all backgrounds who just want to live and get on with their life without the need for this.

“This isn’t in Ballymacash, it’s near Thaxton and that roundabout is a shared, public space and I think everyone would agree that our public spaces should remain shared spaces for people right across Lisburn and beyond and areas where they can feel comfortable.

“They’ve marked this territory out without any consultation from the local community and that isn’t going to unite people in our communities.”

The SDLP were contacted by the Local Democracy Service for comment but didn’t provide one at the time of publication.