Call for ‘divisive’ flag to be removed from Lough Fea

CALLS have been made for a Union flag which has been placed in the middle of Lough Fea to be removed.

The flag, which was secured to a metal pole in the middle of the upper end of the “wee lough”, has been flying since late last week and is thought to have been erected ahead of Twelfth celebrations in the area.

The lough is a popular tourist attraction and used by numerous cross-community groups. NI Water, which has control of the land, confirmed that no permission had been sought to erect a flag and said they would hold discussions on whether to remove it.

A spokeswoman said: “NI Water can confirm that it has not given permission to erect this flag at Lough Fea Reservoir, and the organisation does not condone the use of its land for such activities

“NI Water’s priority is the security of our sites and security of water supply to our customers. Access onto NI Water’s property to plant a flag has never been granted and NI Water will consult on the best course of action.”

Meanwhile a man involved in a cross-community charity competition on Saturday said the flag’s presence is unwelcome. Robert Paul took part in a fishing competition in aid of the nearby Charis Cancer Centre. He said: “No-one really said anything about it and our groups are very cross-community and tolerant anyway, but I would say that people would have felt more comfortable had the flag not been there.”

Local Sinn Fein councillor John McNamee called for the flag to be removed, claiming it was an “inflammatory” move by those who erected it.

“They’ve been doing this for years,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect the area or the views of people in the area. Lough Fea and its facilities are used by tourists and people from all sections of the community and there’s no reason for that flag to be flying in the middle of it.

“It is a policy of Cookstown Council not to have flags or emblems of any kind and I think the same reasoning should apply in this case.

“I would call for the flag to be removed immediately either by those who have put it there in the first place or by NI Water who have control of the lough.”

It is understood someone walked across the lough when it froze over during the most recent harsh winter and replaced the Union flag with a Tricolour which was also subsequently removed.