A local councillor has thrown down the gauntlet to Lagan Valley MP Jefffrey Donaldson and told the anti-Agreement unionist – it’s over to you.
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler has called for the removal of all flags in the Lisburn area after Sinn Féin removed tricolours from the Twinbrook, Poleglass and Stewartstown Road areas.
And now Councillor Butler has called on the UUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson to use his influence to bring about the removal of loyalist flags in the Dunmurry, Derriaghy, Lambeg and Stoneyford areas and make Lisburn a flag-free zone.
The move comes after a recent interview in the Andersonstown News when Mr Donaldson said that it was hypocritical of nationalists to call for the removal of “the Union flag and the Ulster flag” when the tricolour flew in nationalist areas.
“We have set down an example by what we have done in getting these flags removed,” said Councillor Butler.
“The message we are sending out is, let people live free from the threat of sectarian harassment.”
Councillor Butler said that Sinn Féin wanted to create a neutral environment where people can live free from threats and intimidation.
“I hope that Jeffrey Donaldson will welcome the initiative we have taken in relation to flags,” he said.
However, when contacted by the Andersonstown News, Jeffrey Donaldson said that it was not up to him to bring down the flags in areas mentioned by Councillor Butler.
“I have consistently called for the removal of flags which are tattered and torn,” said Mr Donaldson.
“I believe that flags should only be flown properly and not left up until they are tattered.
“It isn’t up to me to take down flags, it is up to the people of those areas.
“The marching season is not over yet and I wouldn’t expect the flags to come down before then,” said Mr Donaldson.
The initiative comes at a time when Cllr Butler has accused loyalists of a systematic campaign of intimidation against Catholics.
“In recent times my family home was attacked by loyalists, and numerous threats including one naming my partner, have been painted on walls in Dunmurry and Lisburn. It is part of a fairly sustained effort to intimidate me from continuing to expose sectarianism both inside and outside Lisburn Council.
“In other areas in the constituency, particularly in Stoneyford, over a dozen Catholic families have been forced to put their homes up for sale.”