Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has called on other political parties to speak out against sectarian flags being used to ‘claim’ new shared social housing estates.
He was speaking after Irish tricolours were put on display at a new development on the Mill Road area of Newtownabbey.
Sectarian graffiti warning that there should be “no Prods” in the new development had appeared in August, and a similar incident had also taken place in July.
Meanwhile, loyalist flags have been erected in a similar project at Killynure Green in Carryduff.
The Department for Social Development is funding 10 new shared neighbourhoods under the Building a United Community strategy – each of which should have no more than 70 per cent of one religion.
But East Antrim MLA and Alliance Party social development spokesman Mr Dickson yesterday singled out the appearance of tricolours at the Newtownabbey development as an attempt to block shared living spaces.
Using flags to intimidate others out of a shared space is becoming “a regular sinister occurrence” in both communities, he said.
He has met housing associations – including those in Belfast and Newtownabbey – and applauds the work they are doing on the issue, but said more action is needed.
That includes the larger political parties recognising that emblems and flags do not belong in shared areas.
He accused other parties of paying “lip service” to a shared future.
“Shared space means just that – open to all sections of the community.
“But sadly until unionists and nationalists recognise this and are prepared to follow the Alliance Party’s lead, this culture of intimidation is set to continue.”
Belfast man Brian, a Protestant in a mixed marriage, was about to move into a house on the Carryduff estate. but raised the matter on the Nolan Show yesterday.
“There are UVF flags up on every lamppost in the estate,” he said.
“It does not bother me but my wife and son took one look and said ‘there is no way we could move in there’.
“What happened up in Newtownabbey was totally wrong too. It is disgraceful.
“The people that put these flags up have done their job well.
“Even if the flags are removed now everybody knows the threat has been issued.
“This is not the Northern Ireland that I want for my children.”