Irish Republican News · September 24, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Loyalists target GAA flags

A controversy has erupted in the North after loyalists were filmed taking down County Down flags in south Belfast ahead of the All-Ireland senior football final last week.

Seven flags were removed from lamp-posts at the Carryduff roundabout on the eve of Sunday’s game against Cork at Croke Park.

The flags had been placed on lampposts in the area by Carryduff Gaelic Football Club to celebrate the success of the senior footballers in reaching the football final.

A woman, returning from Mass on Saturday evening filmed the pair as they climbed a ladder and took the flags down. The woman, who did not want to be identified, said the men were wearing loyalist-embroidered jackets.

“My sister and I were coming home from Mass on Saturday night when we saw the two men taking the flags down,” the woman said.

“We beeped the horn at them but they didn’t seem to care. It wasn’t just that they took the flags down, they actually took them away with them.

“They took one from the main Carryduff roundabout and six from other nearby lamp-posts.”

The woman said Down supporters in the area had been left annoyed by the flags being removed.

“Both men were wearing jackets with loyalist logos on them,” she said.

“People are really upset. Our club is a new Gaelic club and we have never had any trouble.

“Everything so far has been so positive and the flags were put up to support the team and celebrate how well they have done.

“But it’s disgraceful that this has happened.

“What surprised us even more is that they did it in broad daylight. They didn’t care who saw them.”

The incident came just days after a colourful display of work by school children in support of the Down finalists was destroyed, and a a car decorated in supported of the team was also burnt out.

South Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey said that those responsible for taking down the flags had “exhibited a culture of intolerance, towards even the mildest expression of nationalism, that exists within elements of unionism”.

It is thought the incident may have been a reprisal after republican activists from Newry have removed territorial loyalist flags from a stretch of the new A1 carriageway.

The flags caused a storm last month when they were erected on lampposts just days after the official unveiling of the new dual carriageway two miles north of Newry.

Activists from socialist republican party Eirigi removed the flags last weekend.

A spokesperson for the group said up to 30 members took the action as a stand against sectarian intimidation.

“Several weeks ago loyalist flags were erected on the Newry by-pass in an attempt by unionists to intimidate nationalists in the area,” the spokesperson said.

“This was a highly publicised incident which attracted the attention of both the local and six-county media. Despite this attention, little or no action was taken to tackle the issue.

“Indeed while the PSNI are threatening to arrest GAA fans for erecting Down flags, they took no action against unionists erecting sectarian flags.

“Local nationalists then took it upon themselves to remove these provocative sectarian emblems.

“This action was taken to support the right of everyone to live free from sectarian intimidation and harassment.”

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