Unionist bid to steal Christmas from prisoners’ families

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A row has broken out after council staff attempted to remove the names of political prisoners from a public Christmas tree in Strabane, County Tyrone.

Ulster Unionist Party representative Derek Hussey said council staff had been greeted with hostility and threats from locals when they attempted to remove the names of those republican prisoners who are behind bars this Christmas.

The councillor admitted the practice of placing republican prisoners’ names on the Christmas tree in Strabane had been happening for many years, but he wanted it brought to an end.

Strabane independent councillor Paul Gallagher (pictured) condemned the alleged threats to council workers but said the tradition had stretched back more than 40 years.

Derry and Strabane Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA) said it was a “traditional fixture in the calendar of the republican family” .

“For Republicans, Christmas time has always been associated with remembering political prisoners,” they said.

“It’s a traditional fixture in the calendar of the Republican family and December is widely regarded as Prisoners Month.

“For decades, young and old would take to the streets to support and highlight the conditions men and women faced in gaols across Ireland and Britain. Today is no different and that is a fact Derek Hussey must face.

“The non-issue of political prisoners names appearing on the Christmas Tree has become a focal point of attack towards Republicanism, however Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association will continue to highlight the ongoing repressive conditions that political prisoners face.”

DERRY XMAS

The row follows another dispute last week when the same council removed a Christmas message after Mr Hussey complained about the use of the city name “Derry”.

The seasonal billboard carried the pun greeting ‘We wish you a Derry Christmas’.

Hussey claimed it was hostile to unionists because it did not use the word ‘Londonderry’, which is unionists’ preferred name for the city.

Although the council said it had not received any complaints from the public in relation to the billboard, they agreed to remove it.

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