Unionists’ anger over Magherafelt GAA flags

editorial image

A row has erupted in Magherafelt over flags celebrating the local Gaelic club getting to their first Derry County Final in 36 years.

Unionist politicians say the erection of flags on lamp posts close to Protestant churches and the town’s Orange hall breaches an agreement reached with nationalists several years ago.

They have claimed local Sinn Féin Councillor Darren Totten was involved in erecting the flags, and claim to have seen video footage of him and others putting the red and white flags up in the town.

But Councillor Totten responded saying that “in the absence of any flags protocol” he would gladly welcome discussions with the relevant parties in creating space for such an agreement.

He said it had been a tremendous achievement by the O’Donovan Rossa Club and “naturally a time for great local community pride and excitement, hence the public display of flags.”

In a joint statement, DUP Councillors Paul McLean and Wesley Brown, accused the Sinn Féin representative of “provocation towards the Unionist community, especially within the Magherafelt town centre”.

They claimed the positioning of the GAA flags “in sensitive, selective locations” could cause bitterness between the communities.

“Unionists need to be aware that this is the same party who speak of mutual respect and tolerance yet, as we continue to see on a weekly basis, their actions don’t follow their words. 

“Behaviour like Councillor Totten’s vindicates the DUP position within council and clearly paves the way for the future.”

Loyalists removed flags from outside the town’s Roman Catholic Church and Parochial House a number of years ago after complaints were raised by nationalist councillors.

Talks took place and an unwritten agreement was hammered out in which it was decided that flags would not be placed in “sensitive areas” such as outside local churches.

Councillor Totten continued: “I find it astonishing that Unionist representatives can now take offence at flags being flown in support of the local club whilst for many years now the centre of the town of Magherafelt is covered in Union flags and without interference.

He added that Magherafelt town does not exclusively belong to one section of our community-it belongs to everyone.

“The GAA as an organisation opens it doors fully to all sections of the community bar none.

“O’Donovan Rossa Magherafelt GAC has and always will have support from both sides of the community,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, The British Truth Forum condemned the erection of the GAA flags.

Spokesperson William Lennox said when Mid Ulster Council “cut down the Union flag from the town centre” they wanted it to be a flag free neutral area.

“This action is in direct contravention to the rules that this Councillor (Totten) and his cohorts try to implement,” he claimed.

The O’Donovan Rossa 
is currently enjoying success in competitions at all 
levels.