UVF flags spark controversy

Flag near bottom of Ballymoney Hill close to Dromore Road � Edward Byrne Photography INBL28-203EB
Flag near bottom of Ballymoney Hill close to Dromore Road � Edward Byrne Photography INBL28-203EB

The appearance of UVF and YCV (Young Citizen Volunteer) flags in parts of Banbridge have sparked controversy among some residents.

A number of readers, many of whom categorised the flags as ‘paramilitary’, expressed concern they were “harming” the town’s image.

A local Orangeman also contacted the Leader to complain the flags were “tarnishing” the town and the PSNI have confirmed they are aware of the issue.

However, in response to claims the flags are ‘paramilitary’, a spokesman for the Banbridge branch of the PUP said the flags were “historical”.

He stressed the UVF flag carries the date ‘1912’ in reference to year the group was founded.

“Our position is that they are historical flags,” he explained, adding the PUP would support the display of “our emblems and symbols” by communities if done so in a “respectful” manner.

His comments come after Sinn Fein councillor Brendan Curran called for Banbridge town centre to remain flag-free all year round.

The issue provoked a huge response on the Leader’s Facebook page.

The UVF/YCV flags issue has also proved to be divisive with many readers split on whether or not the flags should remain erected on lamp posts.

A police spokesman told the Leader that the PSNI does not possess the necessary statutory powers to remove flags.

He revealed that neighbourhood officers are “aware of concern in the community” and are “working with local community representatives to find a resolution” to the situation.

He explained, “The erection and removal of flags and banners falls within the remit of the ‘Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas’.

“This protocol is currently being reviewed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Police Service looks forward to the outcome of this review and future clarity on the flags issue.

“A long-term resolution to the display of flags and banners in public areas can only be reached by political consensus.

“Until the joint protocol is updated, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will continue to work with communities to identify positive local solutions and will respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred.”

To read readers’ Facebook opinions, go to page 24.