Loyalists have erected flags in a shared housing development in South Belfast in a move which immediately challenges the new DUP MP for the area, Emma Little Pengelly, to condemn those responsible and call on the PSNI to remove the flags- an intriguing proposition, given that the organisation whose name appears on some of the flags, the UVF, was one of the paramilitary organisations publicly endorsing the DUP candidate days before the Westminster election earlier this month.
The area concerned, Global Crescent and Cantrell Close, is a part of the ‘Together Building United Communities‘ strategy rolled out by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness when they served as First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
In that document, the then Executive parties endorsed a vision of a shared society including the following statement:
“This Strategy is not about managing division or allowing our history of segregationto continue. We are committed to creating a new, united, reconciled and sharedsociety.”
Emma Little Pengelly served as a Special Adviser (SPAD) to Peter Robinson during the term from 2011-15 when the TBUC strategy was rolled out, so she should be quite familiar with it.
One resident of the shared housing scheme area, speaking with Belfast Live, had this to say:
“A lot (of residents) are quietly disappointed and Radius acknowledged by letter that the flags go against the ethos of the area,” said the resident.
“In Global Crescent no house or apartment flew a flag in approximately 80 properties – now we have two on every lamp-post.
“This is the UVF reminding people who runs the area.”
“The flags are up a week now, they went up in broad daylight – there is obviously no fear on behalf of the paramilitaries when it is done for all to see,” they added.
In relation to the nature of the housing development, the resident added: “This was built and launched as a shared neighbourhood – to be decked out with flags is highly inappropriate given the amount of effort to engage community relations.
“It should be flag free.”
Once again unionist politicians find themselves challenged to condemn the actions of loyalists involved in staking claim to territory through the use of flags. It’s wrong, motivated exclusively by a sectarian desire to intimidate ‘The Other’ and should be rigorously opposed by all elected representatives.
Here’s the first public comment from the area’s new MP, Emma Little Pengelly:
I met with the housing association on fri morning to discuss the ongoing issues. I will be speaking to as many residents as possible Monday https://t.co/nTsl0kkLu1
— Emma Little-Pengelly (@little_pengelly) June 17, 2017
No recognition there of the explicitly sectarian desire to intimidate residents of the shared housing scheme. Nor is there any clear statement from the DUP MP that all of the flags erected should be taken down by either those who erected them or the PSNI.
Loyalists delivered for the DUP electorally this month through their united declaration under the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) banner in favour of specified unionist election candidates, including Pengelly in South Belfast.
It will be interesting to see if payback includes continuing to turn a blind eye to blatant acts of sectarian intimidation.