Kearney condemns Antrim flag displays
South Antrim MLA and Sinn Féin's National Chairperson Declan Kearney has condemned the recent erection of unionist flags on the Ballymena Road in Antrim, and highlighted the adverse implications for community relations in the town.
Responding to concerns raised by residents in the area, Mr Kearney said;
“I have been receiving countless complaints from residents in the vicinity of Ballymena Road about the erection of flags at the Chapel Corner and along the length of the Ballymena Road as far as, and including Junction One.
“This proliferation of union, ulster, and other flags represents sectarian intimidation and is an obvious attempt to heighten sectarian tensions in a very mixed area of Antrim town. It is a violation of shared residential space, and also impacts upon workers and shoppers from all sections of the community using the nearby Junction One retail park and Springfarm industrial estate.
"The unionist extremists responsible are obviously using this gratuitous and unnecessary display of flags to intimidate and as an attempt to mark out territory. They have shown no respect for the feelings and wishes of local people who are understandably incensed and now want these flags removed.
“It is particularly alarming that St Comgall’s Primary School and the Dunsilly GAA grounds have been singled out. These particular flags have been very deliberately placed at these locations to cause offence and escalate tensions. The actions of this small group of unionist extremists are provocative and absolutely indefensible.
“I am disappointed that unionist political representatives have had nothing to say on this situation. They have a responsibility to promote and protect community relations and are singularly failing to do so. I am also very concerned that the police claim to be unable to deal proactively and satisfactorily with this and other such displays of sectarian intimidation, especially when there are associated threats to good relations, and potentially also public order in the area.
“There must be a zero tolerance political and policing approach against all forms of sectarianism, and those who seek to promote sectarian division and sectarian segregation in Antrim town. I am calling on local political and civic leaders to speak out against all forms of sectarianism, and in support of community relations, and to actively oppose the minority of extremists who want to impose their hate filled agenda in Antrim.”