Police to probe ‘all allegations’ around ‘unauthorised’ Union flag pole in Magherafelt

Police
Police

The PSNI is investigating whether to bring criminal charges against those who erected an ‘unauthorised’ Union flag pole in Magherafelt.

The flag and post were put up in the early hours of Wednesday by a loyalist group that included Castledawson man William Lennox.

'Unauthorised' Union flag out up in Magherafelt

'Unauthorised' Union flag out up in Magherafelt

He admitted his involvement on Wednesday morning, adding that he had informed both Mid Ulster District Council (MUDC) and police that he would be replacing the flag that council had contentiously voted to remove as part of the town’s £1.9m public realm scheme.

Although the appearance of the flag was welcomed by some, local Sinn Fein councillor Darren Totten called for its immediate removal, as it had been placed on a roundabout earmarked for a £54k public artwork designed to make the town a “shared space” for everyone in the majority nationalist community.

Following on from its promise to “resolve the issue of the unauthorised structure” a council contractor took an angle grinder to the pole on Thursday night - leading to questions around council’s neutrality.

In response, a MUDC spokesperson said: "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.

Council contractors remove the flag pole with an angle grinder

Council contractors remove the flag pole with an angle grinder

"The roundabout is the designated site for a new piece of public art.

"I can confirm that the work was undertaken by contractors employed by the Council and that the police were notified and maintained a presence at the location."

Subsequently police said: "Any allegations made to police in regard to the flagpole will be investigated."

They confirmed that officers had been present when the flag pole was put up, and when it was sawn down again.

Asked why they did not act to prevent the erection of the "unauthorised structure", Superintendent Mike Baird said: "Police identified a number of males who it was believed were involved in erecting a flagpole at the roundabout.

"We are currently investigating with partners and the local council as to whether any criminal offences have been committed or any other regulations have been breached."

He also said that police were present when it was taken down by council employed contractors "to ensure there was no breach of the peace whilst the flagpole was being removed".

Cllr Paul McLean, leader of council’s DUP delegation, has hit out at the "unauthorised" flagpole’s removal.

He 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."