Barry McCaffrey
4 July 2004
Irish News

A DUP councillor has said Catholics living in a south Belfast
apartment block should move to the Republic if they objected to a
huge Northern Ireland flag being erected on their building.

Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson said residents of Whitehall Square
should be aware that they were living in "a Protestant area".

She said she did not support the erection of loyalist paramilitary
flags beside the apartments in recent days because they "ghettoised"
the area.

However, she said a Northern Ireland flag erected on Whitehall Square
itself was "part and parcel of community life here".

Loyalist youths also attempted to erect a paramilitary flag outside
St Mary's on the Hill Church in Glengormley last night (Friday).

A police spokeswoman said officers and community representatives had
succeeded in dissuading them. Union flags were previously flown
outside the church.

The private Whitehall Square development in the Sandy Row area has
attracted a number of loyalist protests.

In September contractors employed to clean sectarian graffiti from
the building were attacked by loyalists and their van was set on
fire. This May graffiti was again daubed on Whitehall Square, calling
for the expulsion of Catholics.

Later around 300 loyalists protested outside the £120,000 apartments,
claiming that Sandy Row residents had been taunted by republicans
living in the private development. After those protests a number of
Catholic residents said they were leaving the apartments.

Responding to the latest erection of flags, Ms Patterson said: "If
they (residents) don't like the flags of this country, then they
should go and live across the border."

Ms Patterson said the developers should have told buyers that they
would be living in a loyalist area.

"The good people of Sandy Row were demonised because they dared to
stage a protest after provocation from Whitehall Square," she said.

Rejecting nationalist claims that the erection of loyalist flags was
designed to intimidate Catholic residents, Mrs Patter-son said: "Of
course they are going to say that. They are doing what they do best –
complaining about the marching season."

However, SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy described the erection of the
flags as "naked intimidation".

"This is pure sectarianism and unionists can't deny that. These flags
were deliberately erected at Whitehall Square because they believe
there are still Catholics living there," he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey said: "I had hoped this intimidation
had been brought to an end but unfortunately it seems there are still
people intent on stoking up sectarian tension.

"There are good people in Sandy Row and I would call on that
community to stand up and say this is wrong and that the flags should
be removed."

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