Posted By: July 11, 2014

Newton Emerson. Irish News. ( Belfast). Thursday, July 10, 2014
AS unionism threatens to wreck Northern Ireland over parading, we have finally found
Peter Robinson's bottom line on extremism. The erection of a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) flag
in east Belfast was "dreadful", "intimidatory", "grossly offensive" and the work of
"some idiot", the DUP leader declared, adding the those responsible had no "local

Is a suspicion of local support the reason Robinson has not been so forthright about
other racist incidents? We have also found the PSNI's bottom line on flags, with
police removing the KKK banner plus an overnight replacement, albeit after
"discussions with local residents and representatives". So why can the same
decisiveness not be shown to loyalist flags? 'Residents and representatives' might
dispute the comparison and police might cite the enforcement implications of local
support but a key distinction for officers of the law should be that the UVF and the
UDA, unlike the KKK, are proscribed organisations.

UNION flags are a trickier business, not being illegal in themselves. Last month the
PSNI said it would treat any further union flags on Belfast's mixed upper Ormeau
Road as a breach of the peace, implicitly admitting officers have always had the
power to take flags down. However, with such arbitrary power comes a responsibility
to be consistent. This week, police refused to stop union flags going up on
Belfast's mixed Lisburn Road, including outside their own police station, apparently
after judging loyalists would breach the peace if their flags were removed for
breaching the peace. So are we back now to the threat of violence wins?

IN other breach of the peace news, the PSNI has won its appeal against April's High
Court ruling that officers "wrongly facilitated" flag protest parades. The original
judgment found officers had misdirected themselves on basic points of law as to
whether un-notified parades are illegal, while conceding police must still have
operational discretion on the ground. The appeal judgment found police must have
operational discretion on the ground, regardless of whether a parade is unnotified
and therefore illegal. In other words, once parading law is broken, public order
concerns trump enforcing the law. So yes, it seems we are back to the threat of
violence wins…"