DUP MP says there is 'no demand' for removing terror flags flying in her constituency

'Almost beyond belief' she is not campaigning against signs, opposition politician says

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 21 June 2017 15:06
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The MP for South Belfast said she had visited around 100 homes and had received a mixed reaction to the paramilitary flags
The MP for South Belfast said she had visited around 100 homes and had received a mixed reaction to the paramilitary flags

A Democratic Unionist MP has caused controversy by declining to advocate for the removal of flags celebrating terrorist organisations currently being flown in her constituency.

Flags promoting the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) have been raised in shared housing developments that are part of the Together Building United Communities programme.

The UVF killed hundreds of people after its formation in 1966 and is classified as a terrorist organisation by the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and United States.

However Emma Little Pengelly, who became MP for the area little over a month ago, said that when she spoke to residents she found no widespread demand for their removal.

She reported she had received a mixed reaction to them when she visited around 100 homes in the areas where the flags are being flown, finding the majority of those she spoke to "didn't want a public fuss around this matter".

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Political opponents of the MP condemned her comments, saying she should campaign against the UVF signs.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said it was "almost beyond belief“ Ms Little Pengelly believed there was no widespread demand for removal of flags.

"A shared community should be welcoming to all and intimidating to none," she said.

The DUP has itself condemned paramilitary groups on previous occasions.

Following her comments, Ms Little Pengelly tweeted: "Let me also be v clear I have also stated categorically that I oppose all paramilitaries in our society, that includes paramilitary flags.“

A DUP spokesperson said earlier flags supporting paramilitary groups had no place in communities and should all be all removed.

"Paramilitaries are a plague on society,“ the spokesperson told the BBC's Nolan Show. "The DUP condemns all those who cling to criminality and violence.“

The police service in Northern Ireland said removing flags was not its responsibility, and officers would only remove flags where there were “risks to public safety”.

“We will work with local communities and respond to any issues where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred,” the force said in a statement.

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