Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, has called for a consistent approach to flags after the PSNI warned that anyone putting up flags in a mixed area in South Belfast could be charged with breaching the peace.
“The erection of provocative flags in mixed areas can cause significant anger and distress for local families. We have seen examples of this time and again across Mid Ulster,” said the SDLP assembly member.
“I, therefore, welcome the decision by the PSNI to confront sectarian flag abuse in South Belfast. For far too long there has been an unduly tolerant approach.
“Ordinary people are entitled to live without threat or intimidation and the PSNI are obligated to protect those living in peace and confront those who disrupt that peace.
“Whilst it is welcome that the PSNI have advised local ‘community representatives’ in South Belfast that placing flags in mixed areas will be deemed a breach of the peace – it is essential that a consistent position is adopted across Northern Ireland.
“If the PSNI have a concrete and co-ordinated plan to deal with the erection of flags in mixed areas they should be very clear with all residents and all political representatives.
“There is also a responsibility on the First and deputy First Ministers to bring forward the long-awaited update of the cross-agency protocol on flags. The current flags protocol has been under review since 2005. It is completely inadequate, but movement will require agreement by the political parties within OFMDFM.
“In the continued absence of progress on the Haass proposals there is an onus on those two parties to update the cross-agency flags protocol.
“This is not an issue solely in Belfast. There are mixed areas across Northern Ireland. There must be a consistent approach in place in all those areas.”