17/02/2014

Lo Calls To Remove Flags And Murals Along Giro Route

Alliance Party Environment Spokesperson Anna Lo has called for the removal of election posters, flags and paramilitary murals along the route of the Giro d'Italia cycle race.

She said: "Alliance agrees that we should take down election posters on the route of the Giro d'Italia for the duration of the race if there is agreement from all political parties. However, if there is cross party agreement on this, then we should also look to take down flags and paramilitary murals along the route."

Her comments follow and announcement by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan last month that he would be calling on all parties to invoke a voluntary ban that would see no election posters on lampposts along the route.

"I believe there is a responsibility on us all to present the best possible picture of the North," he said. "And I believe a small step such as this by political parties would reap much greater collective benefits for the people of Northern Ireland."

But Anna Lo has said the move should be extended beyond party political posters.

"The very same arguments that politicians have been making about taking down election posters to showcase Northern Ireland and our beautiful scenery, also applies to flags and paramilitary murals," she said.

"Funding will be made available in towns along the route to improve the image of eyesores such as derelict buildings but I have a bigger problem with images of paramilitary gunmen.

"Do we really want these images to be visible on the route when millions of people will be watching the race on television? Why would we spend money on improving derelict buildings but not deal with threatening and intimidating paramilitary murals?"

The Giro d'Italia is a world-famous cycle race that is held primarily in Italy, but also passes though other countries. This year, the race will begin in Belfast and take cyclists up through Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney to Bushmills and back through the Glens of Antrim to Larne, Carrick and Whiteabbey, before finishing at Belfast City Hall.

Cyclists will then race from Armagh to Dublin before heading back to Italy to complete the 21-stage race on 1 June.

Anna Lo remarked: "The Giro d'Italia provides us with a great opportunity to show that Northern Ireland has moved beyond the politics of the past. As political parties were so willing to support the ban on election posters along the route, I hope they will show similar support for a ban on flags and paramilitary murals."

(IT/JP)

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