Alliance Party calls PSNI to investigate erection of Twelfth decorations in Lurgan

The PSNI has affirmed that it does not have the power to remove flags, after the Alliance Party asked it to investigate loyalists erecting Twelfth decorations in Lurgan.

The PSNI said it received a report “that flags were being erected” in the High Street on Wednesday but added that it does not have the responsibility or power to remove them.

Lurgan Alliance Councillor Peter Lavery confirmed that his party asked the PSNI to investigate. But while the PSNI said the complaint was about flags being erected, he said it was actually about “forklifts creating a traffic hazard”.

He said that everyone is “free to celebrate their culture” but that it must be done “in a safe and respectful manner”.

A row has erupted over flags In Lurgan in the run up to the Twelfth of July.

“Alliance will always prioritise public safety and in this instance, raised concerns after being notified about forklifts creating a traffic hazard”.

The PSNI said it “received a report that flags were being erected” in the High Street area of Lurgan on Wednesday 30 June. It said that officers attended and enquiries are ongoing.

Chief Inspector Bernard O’Connor said: “Within the current statutory framework, the removal of flags is not the responsibility of the Police Service nor do we have a specific power to do so and we will only act to remove flags where there are assessed risks to public safety owing to their erection.

“We are aware that this is a sensitive issue for the whole community and there is no easy solution. There is no community or political consensus on the flags issue and ultimately this requires a political, not a policing resolution.

“Our experience shows the most effective solution to this issue is negotiation, mediation and engagement between local communities working with agencies including local police.”

He added that police will continue to work with local communities and partners to find long term solutions to issues around flags.

However Mr Lavery added that since he reported the issue to police, the issue has escalated significantly in the town. He said that paramilitary and Parachute Regiment flags had appeared “with UVF flags now erected outside mixed housing developments in a clear and sinister bid to raise tensions”.

He added: “Alliance has been consistent in calling for legislation to better regulate the flying of legal flags and emblems from street furniture, so they are done in a regulated, time-bound manner following appropriate consultation.” He called on all other parties to “unite behind that call” and for an end to “marking of territory and intimidation”.

TUV Upper Bann spokesman Darrin Foster said that Alliance reporting loyalists to the PSNI “for erecting red, white and blue bunting” will only inflame community tensions. He added: “Who do Alliance think they are? Making a complaint to the police about traditional bunting going up as it has done for generations?” He said the PSNI did not not detect any offence. “Tellingly, in spite of this Alliance has doubled down on making the complaint, laughably citing safety concerns.” He lcaimed that the party which “likes to preach... tolerance and respect shows neither when it comes to loyalist and British culture.”