Loyalists gather for a weekly protest regarding the decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag over the City Hall. Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

PSNI clarifies whether it's clamping down on flags in Belfast

The police moved to clarify their position on the flying of flags after reports that it would clamp down on flags in Ballynafeigh.

THE PSNI HAS clarified its position on the flying of flags in Belfast.

Yesterday, it was reported that the police in Northern Ireland were to clamp down on the flying of flags in a mixed area of Belfast, Ballynafeigh on the Ormeau Road.

The BBC had said that following discussions with Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey, the PSNI would treat the erection of loyalist flags in Ballynafeigh as “a breach of the peace”.

A statement made to BBC NI politics programme The View made the statement and said that community representatives had been spoken to. But the PSNI said that the removal of flags is not their responsibility.

Public safety

Today, a PSNI spokesperson responded to reports that the policy on the role of police dealing with flags in Northern Ireland has changed.

“No single body or agency has the answer to all of the issues surrounding the flying or the removal of flags in Northern Ireland,” they said.

They reiterated that the removal of flags is not the responsibility of the PSNI and said that “police can only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety”.

This is entirely in line with existing PSNI policy and practice and does not represent any change in that policy.

The spokesperson said the PSNI “accept[s] that this can lead to the perception of differing approaches in different areas, but this is the essence of local community resolutions in the absence of a wider consensus”.

The experience within policing 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.

Protests broke out in December 2012 over a decision to only fly the Union flag on 19 designated days of the year at Belfast’s City Hall.

Read: PSNI encouraged by latest union flag protest in Belfast>

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