SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone has called for calm after an upsurge in provocative flag-flying in the Mid Ulster area.
The SDLP MLA was speaking after a large number of flags appeared in Mid Ulster towns after Belfast City Council voted to restrict the flying of the Union flag at council properties.
Mr McGlone said, “The sudden rash of Union flags which have appeared in Mid Ulster towns after the Belfast City Council vote are clearly intended to be provocative claims of control of our shared public spaces. It is a co-ordinated campaign and one which, as the police pointed out in Belfast, has some involvement from loyalist paramilitaries.
“When I heard the reports of flags being erected in the central Diamond Square in Magherafelt on Thursday evening I contacted local police to ensure that they were aware of the events underway.
“There is CCTV footage of the incident and I understand that the police have identified several of those involved. It is now a matter for the police to progress with and I trust that they will take action where appropriate.
“At a time of deepening economic hardship our town centres need to be as welcoming as possible. Local shops and business owners rely on the Christmas trade to keep their businesses going. Anything that disrupts or disturbs that trade is simply making a difficult economic situation worse.
“The tensions caused by the flag-flying campaign during the past week, coupled with the violent disorder in Belfast, seriously damages the prospects of a successful Christmas shopping season for local businesses.
“Public representatives must show leadership on this issue. Mature political disagreement does not include attempting to intimidate and terrorise those you disagree with. The attacks on the homes of democratically elected representatives will be condemned by all responsible citizens.
“As well as the need for the police to take action against those responsible for the ratcheting up of tensions, I am calling on all political representatives to work towards restoring and maintaining calm.
“As the recent arrests in Derry have shown, the opponents of peace will use any opportunity given to them in their efforts to destabilise the political settlement so many of us worked hard to achieve. They must not be allowed to succeed.”