Town centre must be ‘welcoming to all’

The Union flag in Magherafelt town centre.mm34-365sr
The Union flag in Magherafelt town centre.mm34-365sr
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THE SDLP today entered the new flags row in Magherafelt by calling for the town centre to be a “welcoming place for all.”

BY STANLEY CAMPBELL

Sinn Fein had called for the removal of Jubilee flags put up to mark the Queen’s Jubilee and the DUP responded by saying this would happen at a convenient time.

SDLP councillor Jim Campbell said there have been repeated instances of national flags being used to mark out territory as belonging to one or other part of the community and excluding everyone else.

“We should not allow Magherafelt town centre to be labelled or seen as the territory of only one part of our community, but unfortunately that is how a certain faction of unionism is trying to portray it,” he continued.

“A plethora of Union Jacks have been on show now since early June and is well beyond time they were taken down.

“Common decency and courtesy should have dictated their removal long before Wednesday, August 15, a key Catholic festival not only in Ireland but also throughout Europe.

“Along with March 17 it is also one of the few occasions when local nationalist bands exercise a legitimate right to parade in the town.

“In an ideal society the flying of any national flag would not cause a problem, but unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal society.

“Until we are mature enough to accept each others’ national allegiances without seeing them as a threat then our public spaces should be kept neutral.”

Councillor Campbell added that this is the only way Magherafelt town centre can be welcoming to all.

Sinn Fein Councillor Deborah Ni Shiadhail said local residents and community groups have been in contact with her party asking for the flags to be removed.

“While we absolutely respect the rights of the unionist community to celebrate their culture in an reasonable way that respect must be reciprocated. The unionist population have had ample time and opportunity to celebrate their culture and identity over the past few months and it’s now time for them to respect their neighbours.

“Nationalists feel that their identity and culture is being totally ignored and they are being treated like second class citizens and the time for that kind of behaviour has long since gone.”

DUP Chairman of Magherafelt Council, Councillor Paul McLean said the flags were erected to mark the Queen’s Jubilee year.

He said they would be removed at a “convenient time.”

Loyalist sources have told the MAIL that there are plans to remove the flags in the near future.

stanley.campbell@jpress.co.uk