Council's neutrality questioned after contractors cut down 'unauthorised' Union flag

Council contractors remove an 'unauthorised' Union flag from Magherafelt town centre
Council contractors remove an 'unauthorised' Union flag from Magherafelt town centre

The removal of an 'unauthorised' Union flag from Magherafelt town centre "demonstrates a total disregard and lack of respect for the Union Jack", says a DUP councillor.

Despite the flag being erected without planning permission on a roundabout where public art is due to be installed in the next few weeks, DUP Cllr Paul McLean has hit out its removal.

'Unauthorised' flag in Magherafelt

'Unauthorised' flag in Magherafelt

He said council contractors had been called in to remove the Union flag pole erected by a group of loyalists in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

When asked if this was the case, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council said: "I can confirm it was contractors employed by the council who undertook the work to remove the unauthorised structure at the Diamond roundabout.

"The council took steps to remove an unauthorised structure from the Diamond roundabout in Magherafelt on Wednesday, February 8 which had been erected earlier that day.

"The roundabout is the designated site for a new piece of public art... police were notified and maintained a presence at the location."

But the leader of the DUP group delegation, which opposed the removal of the town's flag pole as part of the town's £1.9m public realm scheme, said: "Once again we have witnessed the undermining and erosion of our unionist and protestant culture by a nationalist and republican Mid Ulster Council.

"It beggars belief that officers can mobilise to have a flag pole cut down and removed in such short a time yet, other bread and butter issues that effect the lives of our constituents take a life time to achieve."

He has also hit out at the PSNI, calling into question its "neutrality" on "the removal of the flag and flagpole".

Council declined to comment on his allegations, and police have been contacted for comment.

The Union flag was taken down in Magherafelt following a democratic vote, in a bid to make the town centre a "shared space" for all the community.

Unionists and the Orange Order said it made the majority nationalist town "a cold place for Unionists".