Summer of Silence over flags of fear

The following letter appeared in the County Down Spectator on Thursday 24 September 2015

I write in relation to the recent removal of paramilitary flags from most arterial routes across North Down. For months local residents, visitors and investors have been forced to endure this flagrant demonstration of support for illegal proscribed terrorist organisations. I am therefore encouraged to see removal commence and hope this will continue in all locations throughout the Borough.

The lack of action by statutory bodies to address erection of these flags and ensure removal over the Summer has been extremely disappointing and has only served to increase legitimate sense of frustration and dissatisfaction by law abiding members of the public who demand a society free from fear and intimidation.  

Deafening silence from local DUP and Ulster Unionist MLAs and Councillors has further compounded the problem, allowing statutory bodies to continue with their ambivalence and those who erected the flags with the impression that such activity is somehow acceptable.

Rather than a one sided approach to dealing with the sinister presence of paramilitary organisations North Down deserves strong, unequivocal, vocal leadership from across the political spectrum in support of the Rule of Law and against the continued existence of any paramilitary organisations, regardless as to whether these criminal gangs masquerade as Loyalist or Republican.

For the current talks process to succeed the era of silence or inferred support from elected representatives on erection of paramilitary flags, murals and shrines must end alongside negotiations and joint protests with those representing paramilitary organisations.

We’ve travelled so far in Northern Ireland and have much more to achieve but without a real commitment to eliminate poison of paramilitarism our shared desire for a peaceful and prosperous future will never been realised. I’m not prepared to reluctantly contemplate another Summer of paramilitary flags flying off lampposts neither should any other elected representative or statutory bodies. People across North Down deserve better.

Yours etc.

Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir
Town Hall, Bangor