A LOYALIST paramilitary flag or other illegal ones along the Hospital Road in Omagh should be removed, according to the new DUP chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
The Red Hand Commando flag is one of over a dozen which have been erected along the busy road during the past two months, prompting concerns from some local residents and nationalist councillors.
Speaking to the Tyrone Herald this week, the DUP’s Errol Thompson, said any flags which are illegal or tattered should be removed. However, he cautioned that the issue is a ‘very sensitive one’ due to pro-Union apprehension in the centenary year of Northern Ireland and the controversy surrounding the Irish Sea border. “The Centenary Year is a celebration for many and this year is a contentious one. If flags are illegal, then I’d be calling for them to be taken down, and I don’t agree with flags rotting on poles,” he said.
“Hunger Strike commemoration boards have also been erected and the one outside the County Hall was acting as a provocation to many people who contacted me, especially from some families involved in the Omagh Bomb.
“People need to take into account the year that we are in. My attitude is one of live and let live. Barry McElduff of Sinn Fein has suggested a protocol, but I don’t know who they are going to discuss this with. A lot of people in the pro-Union community would not have a lot of faith in what Barry has to say due to his past antics.
“There is a great deal of apprehension out there within the pro-Union community and we don’t want to upset that any more than it is. My call is for any issues to be kept within the law.”
He was reacting to calls from Omagh Town Sinn Fein councillor, Barry McElduff, for a ‘flags protocol by political leaders and community groups in the town.
He said he had been contacted by people saying that there were ‘too many’ flags along the Hospital Road.
“They believe that those who erected these flags have gone too far and that the atmosphere being created is ‘unwelcoming, intimidatory and off-putting,” he added.