An escalation in the number of loyalist and Union Jack flags being erected on main routes into Derry is causing intimidation, a local man has said.
The man contacted the ‘Journal’ yesterday to express his concerns over the proliferation of tribal emblems in the vicinity of Caw Roundabout and at Newbuildings in the run up to the Twelfth, and called for their removal from the area.
He said he has contacted the PSNI and government officials regarding the flags, paraphernalia and painted kerbs and lamp posts, but that no-one seemed to be making any move to deal with the issue.
The Department for Infrastructure and the Police Service of Northern Ireland responded last night that at present they will only act on flags whereby there is either a public safety issue or agreement within the local community.
The man, however, said there should be no tribal symbols of any description in shared area.
“You drive over the Foyle Bridge and there are a lot of flags there at the Caw Roundabout,” he added.
“People are frustrated. This is supposed to be a shared space.
“We are supposed to be trying to move forward, but how can we when we keep getting reminders of the past?
“It is intimidating; it is designed to intimidate. There should be no flags in any shared spaces.”
He also said that the red, white and blue kerbstones and lamp posts in Newbuildings seemed to have been freshly repainted.
“Everybody passes these areas, they are main arterial routes into the city.
“It brings the town down and that goes for any colour of flags,” he said. “I think in this day and age it is not appropriate.”
The man, who has asked not to be identified, said he has already contacted the PSNI over the issue and had asked police: “If I painted a lamp post outside Strand Road Barracks am I going to be spending the night inside there?
“Police should be stopping them putting them up in the first place, never mind taking them down afterwards,” he maintained.
Police confirmed they have received a report of flags being erected in the area of Caw roundabout.
Responding to the points raised by the local man, PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “The flying of flags in public places is an issue that provokes a range of strong responses and very different viewpoints.
“The type of flags flown, how, where and when they are flown are all important considerations.
“The reality is that while we understand the public’s frustration in this matter, Police will only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety. Until the ‘Joint Protocol’ in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas’ is updated, we will continue to work with communities and respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred.
“Our experience shows that the approach most likely to provide for public safety and prevention of disorder is based on the principles of engagement between local communities working with agencies, including local police and resulting in local decision-making. Police action on its own is not sufficient; instead we all need to work together.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said that while it “does not approve of the unauthorised use of departmental property,” the removal of flags “needs to be treated with sensitivity.
“The general policy position is that the department removes flags or attachments from its property that pose a danger to road users, for example, obscure a sightline, obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians, or compromise the structural stability of the lighting column. If there is an issue where there is concern for public safety or if it is believed a criminal offence has occurred, the PSNI will respond accordingly.
“Where there is agreement and support from communities and their representatives, the department will work with statutory agencies to address the removal of flags.”