Magherafelt Orange Order has broken its silence on the controversial Union flag which is set to come down soon as the town’s £1.9m public realm scheme nears completion.
The Magherafelt lodge said in a statement to the Mail that they are entitled to feel “outraged” that a publicly funded refurbishment of the town centre could result in the removal of the Union flag.
“This is felt as deeply offensive to our tradition and the ethos of one of the largest community organisations within the Mid Ulster Council area,” they say.
“Such prejudice and misunderstanding deflects from the extensive and ongoing outreach by the Orange Institution.”
For almost 20 years nationalist politicians have been demanding the removal of the Union flag and calling for the creation of a “shared space” in the town centre.
Even TUV leader Jim Allister entered the row a few years ago, accusing Sinn Fein of trying to cleanse the town of “any British manifestation or attachment which will contribute to making Magherafelt a cold place for unionists.”
The Orange Order point out in their statement that the flagpole at the Diamond roundabout - which is to be revamped as part of the scheme to include a piece of public art - was erected approximately 65 years ago by the local lodge.
“The Orange brethren and Protestant people of the Magherafelt area are disgusted at this deeply offensive act which is a blatant attempt to antagonise the pro-union community,” they say, stressing they would never give permission for it to be removed.
A spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council said: “Plans for the public realm scheme in Magherafelt were agreed by the former Magherafelt District Council and the former Department for Social Development after a socio-economic appraisal and a period of public consultation between 2010 and 2012.
“Since that time, the scheme design has not included a flag pole. The area in question has been re-configured to include a roundabout which will also hold a piece of public art, featuring 200 designs created by school children, community groups and individual members of the public.”