DUP MLA Jim Wells has hit back at criticism of comments he made defending the erection of Union and Northern Ireland flags on a water tower in Rathfriland.
Police say the NI Water facility was broken into and their inquiries into the incident are ongoing. But Mr Wells has defended the erection of the flags, which he says were put up to mark the town hosting this year’s Twelfth parade.
South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard criticised Mr Wells’ stance on the issue, describing his comments supporting the erection of the flags as “unbelievable”.
“The incident where flags were erected on a water tower owned by NI Water in Rathfriland after a break-in caused considerable anger in the local community,” he said.
“It is now the subject of a police investigation and that must be allowed to proceed unhindered.”
He urged anyone with information about those responsible to pass it on to police.
Defending his position, Mr Wells said the unionist people of Rathfriland were “celebrating their culture in a totally peaceful, joyous way.”
“The tower was decorated to commemorate the 12th July parade which only comes to Rathfriland every eight years. This was a great day with the entire town bedecked with Union and Ulster flags plus lots of red, white and blue bunting and a new Orange arch,” he said.
“As is normal practice the flags will be removed and kept safe for the next time the 12th comes to Rathfriland and the people of the town will continue to celebrate the victory at the Battle of the Boyne.”
Police have confirmed that officers are investigating the break-in and their inquiries “are ongoing”.