A LOCAL councillor has hit out at the “ridiculous amount” of Union flags which have been erected on so called ‘shared spaces’ throughout the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council area.
Flags have been placed on poles along the entire stretch of the main A4 Dungannon to Ballygawley dual carriageway, as well as on the Tamnamore Roundabout, and at prominent locations in the centre of Dungannon, including outside the newly opened Ranfurly Arts and Visitor Centre.
The presence of so many Union flags throughout the district has angered local residents, business people and visitors to the area, and last week’s full meeting of Dungannon Council heard complaints had been made directly to council officials.
Sinn Féin’s group leader on the council, Cllr Padraig Quinn, criticised those responsible for erecting the flags, and called on statutory bodies to show “leadership” on the matter.
He continued, “Firstly, I think the Council has acted very responsibly and appropriately throughout the course of the flag issue. When elected representatives were made aware of abusive protests in January within the town, we stated very clearly that we were opposed to such behaviour.
“Regrettably we now have a situation where a ridiculous amount of large Union flags have been placed in shared public spaces.
“As an Irish Republican I take no offence to the Union flag, as I am confident in my culture and my beliefs and respect others. However, what we have here is a direct and blatant attempt by loyalists to intimidate and cause discomfort to a significant section of our community, and this is something I will not stand for.”
Cllr Quinn also warned of the consequences of “doing nothing” about the situation, claiming flags may well be removed by sections of the community.
“Those responsible for these actions claim that they are protesting against the chipping away of their culture”, he said. “This is simply not true. These protests are opposed to the progression of the Sinn Féin equality agenda, and the fact is a small minority cannot handle the positive and inclusive society that all rational people are committed to building and would prefer we backtrack to the past one sided society.
“It is now time for statutory bodies to show leadership on this issue, on behalf of the Nationalist and Republican community, and indeed a significant section of the Unionist and business community.
“I have been told that it is not illegal to place flags on poles, nor is it the statutory responsibility of any public organisation to deal with this issue, but doing nothing is not an option as we may find ourselves in a situation where flags are put up by one section of the community, and rightfully taken down by another.
“I would argue that as the Union flag blows violently in the harsh weather, unravelling and soiled, and in essence disrespected, those responsible have done nothing but harm their own community, and their so-called cause.
“I would urge them to reconsider their means of protest and offer the same respect to others as they would believe they should be shown.”