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Union flag in Dervock chapel grounds 'will not be taken down'

Connla Young

HARDLINE loyalists have said that a Union flag put up in the grounds of a Catholic church in Co Antrim will not be removed.

The statement came after claims that a PSNI patrol looked on as a group of loyalist youths put the flag up in the grounds of Our Lady and St John the Evangelist Church on Wednesday evening.

The PSNI has refused to say if its officers were present at the time.

Earlier this week it emerged that nationalists had removed a 'Northern Ireland' flag put up on a telegraph pole in the grounds of the church last month.

In response loyalist youths painted kerbstones and the church gates red, white and blue.

The gates were later restored to their original colour after senior loyalists intervened.

A spokesman for the north Antrim Ulster Political Re-search Group, which gives analysis to the UDA, last night confirmed the offending flag will not be taken down.

"At the minute it's not coming down as far as the young fellows are concerned," he said.

The spokesman added that local loyalists are angry that nationalists removed the original flag.

The PSNI came in for criticism earlier this week after independent Moyle councillor Padraig McShane claimed he watched as police officers failed to intervene as loyalist youths erected the flag.

Photographs have emerged showing a group of youths, some hooded, gathered around a police patrol car minutes after the flag was erected.

Mr McShane last night described the flag incident as a "hate crime."

"The flag was at the fore-front of many organisations who murdered countless people on this island, not only because of their political beliefs but also, because of their faith," he said.

"I now call on the police to inform the public if they are preparing a file on this hate crime for the public prosecution service."

A police spokesman said: "Police are not treating this as a hate incident as no complaint of this character has been made to police."

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