by Gareth Cross

The PSNI and Department for Infrastructure have said they will not act to remove Union Jack flags erected at a busy Derry roundabout.

The flags were recently put up on lampposts in the Caw Roundabout area ahead of the upcoming July 12 celebrations and marching season.

A concerned member of the public who asked to remain anonymous contacted the Derry News to express his concerns.

"This has been going on for too long and nobody wants to take responsibility for the flags," he said.

"This is a shared space and they are trying to turn it into a no-go area.

"This road is a main route into town for tourists and they are being met with these flags."

The man said he had contacted various organisations about the flags including the PSNI and Derry City and Strabane District Council but that they had proved unhelpful.

"I asked police if I painted the lampposts outside Strand Road Barracks would they arrest me?," he said.

"Whoever's responsible for dealing with the flags should be owning up, if they just accept it then so will the public.

"I don't want another generation to have to go through all this nonsense with flags."

A Department For Infrastructure spokesperson said the issue of flags must be dealt with 'sensitively'.

"While the Department does not approve of the unauthorised use of departmental property, the removal of flags needs to be treated with sensitivity," they said.

"The general policy position is that the Department removes flags or attachments from its property that pose a danger to road users, for example, obscure a sightline, obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians, or compromise the structural stability of the lighting column.

“If there is an issue where there is concern for public safety or if it is believed a criminal offence has occurred, the PSNI will respond accordingly."

"Where there is agreement and support from communities and their representatives, the Department will work with statutory agencies to address the removal of flags.”

Police in Derry admitted that they have received a report of flags being erected in the area of Caw roundabout.

Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said police would only act to remove flags when they proved a risk to public safety.

"The flying of flags in public places is an issue that provokes a range of strong responses and very different viewpoints," he said.

"The type of flags flown, how, where and when they are flown are all important considerations.

“The reality is that while we understand the public’s frustration in this matter, Police will only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety. Until the 'Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas' is updated, we will continue to work with communities and respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred.

Superintendent McCalmont said that engagement between communities was the key to dealing with such issues.

“Our experience 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," he said.

"Police action on its own is not sufficient; instead we all need to work together."

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