REPUBLICANS and Unionists are once again at loggerheads over flags in the Omagh area.
Sinn Féin is demanding the removal of a flag depicting the British Army’s Parachute Regiment which was recently erected opposite the British Legion building in Campsie.
However, DUP councillor defended the flag and in turn accused Sinn Féin of not addressing the erection of tricolours and and a 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32 CSM) flag on the outskirts of the town.
Marty McColgan, the Sinn Féin chairman of Omagh District Council, said shopping areas in the town should be a “neutral zone”, free from flags that people may find offensive.
He also believes that a Union flag erected outside the Community House building in Omagh during the early hours of St Patrick’s Day was an attempt “to raise tensions”.
“We believe the Union flag at the Community House was put there to heighten tensions,” said Cllr McColgan.
“We asked the Depatment for Regional Devlopment to remove it out but have received no response. Campsie shopping area should also be a shared space. Given the history of the paratroopers in the North, including Bloody Sunday in Derry and the ‘Ballymurphy Massacre,’ someone is trying to crank up tensions with this flag.
“Of all the regiments in the British Army this one causes the most offence. I would call on unionist politicians to show leadership and use their influence to have these removed so that the town centre can be kept neutral.”
Cllr McColgan also emphasised that he would call for any flag deemed offensive to a particular community to be kept out of the Omagh area. He said the situation is more difficult to address in estates and outlying areas such as the Hospital Road where many flags fly during the summer. He added, “I don’t equate flags away from the neutral area of the town as the same. However if flags are causing offence they shouldn’t be there.”
Cllr Errol Thompson has defended the flying of the Parachute Regiment flag. He also called on republicans to demand the removal of the 32 CSM flag and an Irish tricolour on the Dromore Road opposite O’Kane Park.
He said, “The County Sovereignty Movement flag is on a main thoroughfare. This is the political wing of those who murdered people from all our traditions and cultures in the Omagh bomb. It is provocative to everybody and an insult across the entire community. I want all politicians to call for the removal of that flag.”
Cllr Thompson also feels the Paratroop Regiment flag “is not there to provoke anyone”.
“The Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for any unlawful doing on that day (Bloody Sunday). The Paratroop Regiment was involved in a lot of good service.”
The DUP councillor also described Omagh as a “garrison town,” stating that British soldiers on a tour of duty settled in the local area.
He added, “I will not call for the removal of a regimental flag. It is not a realistic proposition to remove all flags but we need to show respect.”