TUV leader hits out at removal of Union flag in Magherafelt
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister has hit out at the removal of the Union flag from Magherafelt town centre.
The flag pole was removed this week as part of the town's £1.9m public realm scheme which is nearing completion.
"The removal of the Union flag from Magherafelt is further evidence of Sinn Fein intolerance for anything British," Mr Allister claimed.
"They want to cleanse the town of manifestations of Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom and make it a cold house for Unionists."
The flag pole was put up by the local Orange Order and has stood at the Diamond roundabout for about 65 years.
The Orange Order has expressed its outrage that the flag pole was coming down, describing it as "deeply offensive to our tradition." The local lodge confirmed that the flag and flagpole was being kept for them and they hoped to get both back.
Mr Allister told the Mail: "Having flown in the town for the best part of seven decades it is a nonsense to claim that it was offensive to anyone.
"The flag pole both could and should have been facilitated by the town's public realm works. It strikes me that failure to do so was no accident but design.
"Having erected the flag pole the local Orange Order should have been consulted about this matter and I understand their outrage at what has taken place."
Meanwhile, a group calling itself the British Truth Forum is challenging Mid Ulster Council on its decision to remove the flag pole.
Spokesperson William Lennox said they had written to the council with a Freedom of Information request relating to the flag pole removal, the PSNI and the contractor of the public realm scheme.
Mr Lennox who as a Protestant Coalition member interrupted a meeting of the former Magherafelt Council a few years ago during a row over flags and Christmas lights and demanded to speak under Article 21 of the Magna Carta, claimed it was "an illegal act."
He said the Union flag is not offensive and was representative of everyone in the community, regardless of their religion or political belief.
A spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council said plans for the public realm scheme in Magherafelt agreed by the former Magherafelt District Council and the former Department for Social Development after a socio-economic appraisal and a period of public consultation between 2010 and 2012.
"Since that time, the scheme design has not included a flag pole. The area in question has been re-configured to include a roundabout which will also hold a piece of public art, featuring 200 designs created by school children, community groups and individual members of the public," she said.