The annual row on the flying of Union flags in Banbridge has sparked a renewed call for the town centre to remain “neutral” all year round.
The call was made by Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran after the flags were recently erected on lamp posts throughout the town centre as the marching season approaches.
Mr Curran told the Leader that “all town centres should be neutral” as the flying of flags was “not good for business” on the basis it would put off sections of the community from coming into Banbridge.
However, Ulster Unionist Councillor Glenn Barr has rebuffed Mr Curran’s stance by stressing the Union flags have been erected in preparation for a number of upcoming events.
“We have the mini-Twelfth this weekend, Black Saturday and the main Twelfth celebrations,” he said.
Then referring to an incident involving a police Land Rover and Sinn Fein members, Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Chuilin in north Belfast at the weekend, Mr Barr added, “I think the party (Sinn Fein) has more to deal with than worrying about flags in Banbridge.”
However, Mr Curran said it was “one thing to have flags erected for celebrations, and another for them to take over”.
He continued, “Having spoken to people in Lurgan, Portadown and Craigavon, I’ve been told that shoppers feel that they are not welcome, and they do their shopping in Rushmere Shopping Centre instead.
“The flying of flags must be done with respect. The flags are up 24-hours a day in all types of weather and they end up in tatters.”
But Mr Barr insisted that to his knowledge any ripped flags had been taken down and replaced. He explained, “I know that there was one at the police station which was removed and replaced as well as a number which were erected along the carriageway.”
There have been calls for no flags, and counter-calls, over the past number of years in Banbridge. Belfast City Council’s decision to stop flying the Union flag 364 days a year, sparked protests in the town centre last December.