Criticism that the newly erected bunting in Lurgan could help ruin the economy has been refuted by Unionist politicians.
Bunting went up this week in time for the Twelfth. However, some residents complained, saying it affected local businesses and suggested they withhold rates until the bunting is removed.
One said: “There are a lot of angry people out there. They all say it should be stopped at Castle Lane.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson refuted allegations that it would have a negative impact on the economy: “On the contrary, I know from speaking with local business owners that the annual events held in Lurgan attract people to the town. Far from negatively impacting our local businesses they deliver a welcome boost to trade.”
Dolores Kelly said it was important that town centres are neutral spaces that welcome residents and traders from all communities: “The appearance of flags and bunting makes that more difficult and it’s important that those who erected it this year explain to the people of Lurgan why they’ve covered the town centre. Justification for this as ‘culture’ is just no longer acceptable. While I’m glad that the flags have been erected later this year, it’s important that they’re also taken down in a timely manner in the interest of building community trust.”
Sinn Féin Cllr Keith Haughian said: “Sinn Féin continue to maintain the view that town centres should be neutral and welcoming spaces. The use of flags and buntings to mark out territory for prolonged periods of time is not the way forward for our communities, or for the economic regeneration of our town centres.”
The PUP’s Aaron Dowey said Upper Bann Fusiliers did a ‘fantastic job’: “As has always been the case the decorations have been put up only along the route taken by Lurgan district for their July parades. It is only up for a few weeks and is in a commercial area of the town, not owned by any one side. In recent years those organising parades in Lurgan have shown great leadership in ensuring that the parades are peaceful, well organised and family friendly.”
DUP Cllr Carla Lockhart said: “The flags have been erected as part of the Twelfth celebrations and I trust will be removed accordingly. Leaving a tattered Union Flag on a lamppost is untidy and utterly disrespectful to the flag.
“Lurgan is a divided town but there needs to be some respect shown to those wishing to celebrate the Twelfth. I don’t want to live in some anaemic society where people’s identity is erased.”