NEWTOWNABBEY PUP representative Phil Hamilton has hailed the removal of flags around the borough as a positive step in building community relations.
The removal of the YCV and UVF flags at the end of July was the fulfilment of a promise made by the Rathcoole man who pledged that flags would be taken down after the Twelfth of July celebrations.
Mr Hamilton told the Times the erection and removal of certain flags around the borough was taken by Action for Community Transformation (ACT), an organisation which helps to re-integrate ex-combatants into the community.
He said: “When we talk to communities and say we are putting the flags up on a certain date and they will be down by a certain date, that is greatly appreciated.
“It also gives us the opportunity to discuss the cultural and historical significance of the flags and why we put them up.
“This is a positive step in helping to build community relations and this year’s actions show maturity and leadership as other flags have also been taken down.
“I just hope we can develop on this positive relationship building and I would call on members of the nationalist and republican community to do the same when they want to put up their own flags.
“We have found it makes a real difference when the community knows when they are going up, why they are going up, and when they will be coming down.”
Meanwhile, Alderman John Blair, Alliance Party representative for Antrim Line, has called for all those who have been involved in issues surrounding parades and flags this year to start discussions and preparations for next year no later than September.
Speaking to thank those already involved in the removal of flags he said: “This year has shown, that whilst there are still issues and problems to discuss, progress can be made when there is an inclusive approach to these issues which involves all local representatives in dialogue.
“Even limited dialogue this year has shown how progress can be made when discussions are based on understanding and tolerance.
“I would like to place on record my thanks to Phil Hamilton and PUP colleagues who stuck to their word regarding the removal of certain flags in Glengormley by the end of July. Hopefully others will follow this example by removing flags in Glengormley and across the borough before they become a ragged mess later in the year.
“The action already taken builds on the constructive efforts made by community representatives during parades in Glengormley, to ensure good behaviour, a reduction in alcohol consumption on these occasions and a more positive atmosphere overall.
“I understand some talks may have already taken place, with a view to next year, involving some parties and those involved in organising parades. It is essential that such talks include all local representatives so that everyone is working, together, to ensure a positive outcome.
“The council and the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) provide an ideal platform for ongoing dialogue to take place. This dialogue should commence no later than September so that good working relationships and mutual respect can be in place before tensions arise next year.”