Sinn Fein Councillor calls for removal of flags at roundabout

A Sinn Fein councillor has called on loyalist leaders in Lisburn to meet with the party in a bid to defuse tensions over flags put up in the area, writes Shaun Keenan, Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councillor Gary McCleave
Councillor Gary McCleave

Union flags have been erected at a roundabout close to the Thaxton developmenht.

Cllr Gary McCleave said he has been contacted by local residents who “feel intimidated and believe it’s an attempt to mark out territory”.

He is now calling for a meeting with community activists, including loyalist leaders in the area, to see if an agreement can be reached.

He said: “Hundreds of residents from both sides of the community have written to DfI at this point and complained about the flags in Thaxton.

“It’s an eyesore and it’s bringing down the value of people’s homes in the area and it’s not welcomed by the majority of people who live there.

“This is deliberately done so that certain sections of the community can mark out their territory and to intimidate people who live in these mixed-neighbours and especially nationalists who are moving into that part of Lisburn

“This has only started within the last few years because there was once a time that the flags only went as far as the Nettlehill Road and now that new developments have been built in recent years they have moved the flags on up. It’s blatant and everyone can see what the intention is here.”

The Sinn Fein elected representative for Killultagh said that he had initiated conversations with loyalist leaders in the community but was still waiting for an official response. “At the moment, I can’t see the flags coming down because I don’t think there is a willingness from loyalists to bring them down,” he added. “I am willing to meet with anyone necessary to negotiate and bring forward plans.”

However, DUP councillor James Tinsely said Sinn Fein were “hypocritical” and were “inflaming the current situation”.

He said: “There has been flags flying in that area for decades and what I will say about that community who put up the flags is that they always bring them down after the summer season. There may be a few more up this year but it’s [Northern Ireland’s] centenary year and it’s a very proud occasion in a few proud years.

“The flags are on a roundabout and I don’t believe that they’re breaking any laws. I would have no issue with the flags being up. If you go into Glenavy today you will see signs up on lamp posts about safety measures with a Sinn Fein logo on it. Is the shoe not on the other foot there and is that not hypocrisy? All of the parties that are coming out shouting now are only inflaming the situation.”

Lisburn and Castlereagh District Commander, Superintendent Julie Mullan said: “We continue to engage with the local community and earlier this week, a number of senior officers from Lisburn and Castlereagh held a private discussion with political representatives in the area. This was a useful and constructive meeting in which we discussed concerns in relation to a number of local issues. We are continuing to liaise with the relevant partner organisations about these matters.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the DfI for comment but didn’t receive reply by the time of publication.