TOURISTS heading for a three day music festival in Castlederg could be put off by the number of loyalist flags that have gone up in the area, a Sinn Féin councillor has warned.
Ruairí McHugh this week branded the proliferation of unionist and loyalist flags in the town as “beyond ridiculous”.
He was speaking in advance of a Sinn Féin delegation meeting with the Parades Commission to make objections to contentious loyalist parades due to take place over the Twelfth period.
Mr McHugh also warned that the “saturation” of flags could put people off attending ‘Dergfest’, a three day music festival taking place from August 1-3. Headlining the festival is Westlife star Shane Filan.
Mr McHugh said that in recent weeks there had been three parades in Castlederg, including one in June “which saw the town locked down”. Two more parades are planned for tomorrow night (Friday) as well as parades on the morning and evening of July 12.
A further parade is planned for Monday, which according to Ruairí McHugh will march close to the nationalist Castlefinn Park estate.
He said there had been no attempt by those applying for the parades to enter into dialogue with community representatives, residents or business people, despite it being something the Parades Commission places great emphasis on.
“To add to the anger and frustration of people the entire town and roads leading into it have been covered in loyalist flags for the previous three weeks. Many of these flags have been erected deliberately and provocatively outside nationalist homes and businesses without any regard or consideration given to them,” Cllr McHugh said.
“People are sick of it and who would blame them? Last August we had Protestant church leaders, unionist politicians and a so called nationalist MLA condemning a solitary republican commemoration for the negative impact it would have on community relations which, in stark contrast to every single loyalist demonstration in Castlederg, was banned from entering the supposedly shared space of the town centre.
“Unsurprisingly these same people have nothing to say on the completely over the top amount of loyalist flags and parades and the impact they have on community relations.
“Recently we have also seen a group of Castlederg business people come together in an effort to run and plan events in the town in order to try and generate some much needed footfall. These events have been successful and more are planned in the near future, but who would be encouraged to come into Castlederg for these events whenever they see it covered in loyalist flags. It’s not exactly a welcoming sight to would be visitors.”
Calling for common sense and consideration, the Sinn Féin councillor added, “Nobody is saying the Protestant community is not entitled to celebrate their cultural identity and heritage but there needs to be some common sense shown and consideration given to others in the town in terms of the number of parades and flags in what, at the end of the day, are in a town where the majority of residents do not come from the unionist tradition.”
The Ulster Herald did attempt to speak to the organisers of Dergfest and with representatives of the Orange Order.
At the time of going to press however no responses had been received from either party.