Sinn Fein seeks flags meeting

Sinn Fein has been accused of being hypocritical after the party asked to meet loyalist leaders in Lisburn in a bid to discuss flags put up in the area.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 11:19 am
Union flag
Union flag

Union flags have been erected at a roundabout in the Lisburn area 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.

Sinn Fein’s 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.

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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.”

The Sinn Fein councillor said that he had initiated conversations with loyalist leaders in the community but was still waiting for an official response. “I am willing to meet with anyone necessary to negotiate and bring forward plans. Maybe they can go up and come down at a certain time, I don’t know but we are willing to talk. It hasn’t been forthcoming so far.”

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 coming out shouting now are only inflaming the situation.”

PSNI 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 reply by the time of publication.