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Adair broke the law by painting his kerbstones and guess what, no one is going to do anything.

Byline: JOE ROBERTS

TERROR boss Johnny Adair was breaking the law when he painted kerb stones in his loyalist stronghold this week.

But even though he was committing a criminal offence Adair, and hundreds like him on both sides of the community, is unlikely to face prosecution.

Last night officials at the Departments of the Environment and Regional Development admitted that despite Adair's actions constituting an offence they are powerless to act.

A statement from Department of Regional Development said it has the "discretionary power" to remove items. It added that "where the party responsible for the items can be clearly identified, Roads Service will ask that items are removed".

However, a spokesman revealed that this rule will not apply in the case of kerb-painting where "the agreement of the local community and the safety of Department staff are the two main concerns".

Adair, just out of jail where he was serving a sentence for directing terrorism, was pictured slapping red, white and blue paint on the road side just off North Belfast's Carlisle Circus.

Under legislation, the Roads (NI) Order 1993, he could be fined up pounds 500.

Other criminal offences kerb-painters could face include criminal damage and behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace.

Police sources said yesterday they "can't imagine circumstances in which a prosecution might happen". A Department of the Environment spokesman added: "It is an offence to paint on a road unless you have lawful authority under article 87 Roads (NI) Order 1993.

"If there is a public order element the police are responsible. However, our priority is the safety of staff who will not remove paint from kerbs without the support of the local community."

Former Belfast Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers said he disapproves of kerb-painting but added that bringing criminal prosecutions would have to be done very sensitively.

The Ulster Unionist councillor added: "I have always said I'm very unhappy with this sort of thing. It's just marking territory and it just brings an area down terribly.

"I would advocate that the Roads Service remove paint even before people complain about it. The people who do this never consult with anyone, they just take it upon themselves to paint the kerbs red, white and blue or green, white and orange. If prosecutions were to be brought it would have to be done in such a way as to apply equally to both sides."

North Belfast SDLP councillor Martin Morgan said kerb-painting and flag-flying was often tribal.

He added: "The general view seems to be that it is entirely disrespectful of your national flag your hang it off lamp-posts and use its colours to paint kerbs."

A PSNI spokesman said: "The police's role is the preservation of peace and the protection of life and property. The police realise that the flying of flags and the painting of kerbstones has the potential to enflame tensions.

"We realise that people have the right to demonstrate allegiances. It is not the role of the police alone to deal with these matters but communities and other agencies."

WHAT THEY SAID

10.30: The Daily Mirror contacted the Department of Environment to establish legal status of kerb painting.

11.10: Department responds saying it is an offence.

11.10: Department was asked what level of fine kerb painters can face.

11.20: Department confirms that kerb painters can face fines of up to pounds 500.

14.30: The Daily Mirror called the Department of Regional Development to establish if any there is other legislation on kerb painting.

14.50: A statement was issued saying where people responsible are identified will be asked to remove items.

14.55: The Daily Mirror contacted the Department to see if Johnny Adair will be asked to remove items.

15.05: Department clarifies statement saying in the case of emblems etc Roads Service will seek the agreement of local community.

CAPTION(S):

FREE: Johnny Adair; BRUSH WITH LAW: Yesterday's Daily Mirror
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 19, 2002
Words:659
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