Illegal flag removed with backing of community

THE removal of an illegal flag from the Huntly area of Banbridge has been praised after community leaders worked with local police to defuse the potentially tense situation.

An Ulster Defence Association (UDA) flag is thought to have been erected last week ahead of Twelfth celebrations in the town, and was reported to police on Saturday.

An outraged resident also contacted the Leader to express their disgust. The man said he thought those in charge were “turning a blind eye” to the flag’s presence in the largely residential area.

Police confirmed the flag was removed yesterday (Monday) “following negotiation with all concerned”.

The PSNI spokeswoman said they recognise the flags issue is a sensitive one and had done their best to work with all those involved.

“The issue of flying flags affects all of Northern Ireland and can be a difficult and emotive one and police seek to work within the agreed partnership approach set out by the ‘Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas”.

“We understand that flying flags is a popular way of displaying tradition and culture in Northern Ireland. But for others it is an emotive issue and we would urge anyone with concerns to work with police and other agencies to find solutions that are sensitive to the interests and feelings of everyone in the community.”

Town councillor Jim McElroy said he was relieved the trouble of previous years was avoided and the decision to remove the flag was taken with the agreement of all those involved.

“I welcome the fact that this was resolved without any trouble,” said Mr McElroy. “I welcome anything that doesn’t cause tension in these situations. I have always argued that Union flags should be the only flags to fly but in this situation a compromise was reached and the flag only flew over the twelfth so I would welcome the way it was handled.”

In previous years crowds have gathered for a stand-off between the Nationalist and Unionist communities in the area as well as police.