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DUP man calls for Union flag to be removed from Catholic church

A Union flag has been placed on a pole in the grounds of a Catholic church in Dervock, Co Antrim. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Connla Young

A DUP councillor has called for a Union flag up in the grounds of a Catholic church to be removed.

Councillor Frank Campbell was speaking after the flag was outside St John the Evangelist Church in Dervock, which is near Ballymoney, in recent days.

There was controversy in previous years after flags were flown from an electric pole in the grounds of the tiny church which sits on the outskirts of the mainly unionist village.

Nationalists had called on unionist representatives to use their influence to have the flag removed.

In 2014 the gates of the church and kerbstones were also painted red, white and blue.

The gates were later restored to their original colour when senior loyalists in the area intervened.

In the mid-1990s the church was the focus of a loyalist picket during the Harryville Church protests in Ballymena.

Our Lady and St John the Evangelist serves a small Catholic community and is part of the parish of Ballymoney and Derrykeighan.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough councillor Frank Campbell last night said the flag should be relocated.

“My view would be that flying the flag would be for any community but not when it's a church,” he said.

“I would say I could not influence the ones that put it up but I would say yes, if it's in church grounds I would ask them to remove it - there's other places in Dervock it could be placed.

North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan also urged those responsible for putting the flag up to remove it.

"It is clear that the erection of this flag is about showing disrespect to the congregation and has more to do with intimidation, the marking of territory and the heightening of tensions than to do with the celebration of culture."

Located close to Giant's Causeway, the picturesque village is in an area where the north Antrim UDA operate.

Independent councillor Padraig McShane said those with influence could order the removal of the flag.

"It should be stressed that the vast majority of residents in the village abhor the actions of the UDA but remain under the jackboot of paramilitaries due to the lack of action by statutory and political groups with influence and powers to rid the community of this scourge.

"The UPRG can order the removal within the hour."

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