Residents raise flag concern ahead of contentious Newry Orange parade
Residents in Newry’s Belfast Road have said they are ‘outraged’ after the erection of flags and banners outside their houses in the run up to tomorrow’s controversial Orange parade through Newry.
The contentious parade, believed to contain nearly 40 bands from the Newry District LOL no 9 lodge, has been slammed by local political representatives and organisations in the past week, who claim it will stir up ‘sectarianism’ and negatively impact on local residents and businesses.
One local man, who contacted Newry Times with pictures of the scene, said it was ‘disgraceful’. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, “I saw a big JCB pulling up outside the Ardmore Police Station and men putting flags up, which are basically about a foot from the Police Station’s security wall. They then connected more flags to every pole in sight and across the road at the hockey pitch too.”
He continued, “Not only are these flags not welcome in the area, the JCB posed a significant danger to passing motorists, so why did the PSNI allow these men to drive a JCB right up to the wall of a police station with half of it on the road? Surely they were breaking some of the laws around the use of flags and emblems and it doesn’t help that the PSNI appear to have allowed this to happen.”
“We don’t want these flags up in our area, they don’t represent us and they certainly don’t reflect the concerns of the residents in the area. We want the flags taken down immediately and we don’t want the Orange parade disrupting the area either.”
In the Northern Ireland government’s report, ‘A Shared Future. Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland’, point 2.2.3 proposes, “In town and city centres and arterial routes and other main thoroughfares the display of any flags on lampposts should be off limits.”
Speaking to Newry Times, a spokesman for Newry PSNI insisted that lamp posts outside Ardmore Police station ‘are not the property of the PSNI’. The spokesman continued, “Police do not give approval for the erection of any flag in any area.”
“The issue of flying flags affects all of Northern Ireland and can be a difficult and emotive one and police seek to work within the agreed partnership approach set out by the Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas”.
The spokesman added, “We understand that flying flags is a popular way of displaying tradition and culture in Northern Ireland. But for others it is an emotive issue and we would urge anyone with concerns to work with police and other agencies to find solutions that are sensitive to the interests and feelings of everyone in the community.”
DUP South Down Assemblyman Jim Wells disagreed with the resident’s concerns. He stated, “These flags are widely recognised as the ‘official’ flag of this part of the United Kingdom. It is therefore entirely appropriate that they have been erected a day before the 12th July parade on Thursday.”
Wells believes there is double standards when it comes to the flying of flags. He added, “Those who are objecting to the flags are not really interested in issues such as road safety or the impact on policing. They simply don’t want Ulster flags flying in Newry and would not complain if they were tricolors.”
éirígí spokesperson in Newry, Stephen Murney responded to the erection of flags and buntings around the city, describing it as ‘unsurprising’. Murney said, “The ability of unionists to erect flags and bunting unhindered outside Newry PSNI barracks is not in the least surprising.
“It is widely acknowledged that flags and bunting are regularly erected outside Catholic churches and shops in various towns and villages. Individual Catholic homes in unionist areas are also singled out for this treatment. On an annual basis, the PSNI not only turn a blind-eye to such behaviour, our party activists and supporters, as well ordinary nationalists, would argue that the PSNI actually facilitates this behaviour.”
Murney continued, “Our party members can point to numerous incidents in various areas where the PSNI are actually present as the erection of flags and bunting takes place but do nothing except engage in friendly conversations with those responsible. It is noticeable that, despite the clear intent of those behind this annual sectarian ritual to intimidate and provoke nationalists or to deliberately foment and increase tensions within communities, the PSNI merely publicly respond by saying that ‘no crime was committed’.”
He added, “It is patently obvious to everyone that the PSNI has a long-standing and unwritten corporate policy, inherited from the RUC, which is implemented each July. That policy can be summed up as stating such sectarian provocation by unionists is not to be considered as ‘behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace’.”
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