Sinn Féin councillor accuses police of 'washing their hands' of complaints about UVF flag

There have been complaints about a UVF flag put up close to Banbridge PSNI station. Picture by Hugh Russell

A SINN Féin councillor has accused police of "washing their hands" of complaints about a UVF flag being erected in a Co Down town.

The flag has appeared in the centre of Banbridge, close to the town's police station, alongside union jack and Ulster flags ahead of the July 12th celebrations.

One man, who did not wish to be named, said that he was angered by the flag commemorating an organisation which had been behind the deaths of members of his family.

He said: "It is not nice to bring the family into town. Last year I spoke to police but was told I would have to call into the station to make a formal complaint.

"The union jacks and Ulster flags aren't bothering people, it is the UVF flag that is annoying people."

Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Savage said he had received calls from members of the public, including "many unionists", to complain about the UVF flag.

Mr Savage said: "I have contacted the police and unless there is a breach of the peace they won't intervene. They have washed their hands of it.

"Banbridge is a main venue for the 12th and nobody is objecting to that, but there is anger about the UVF flag."

However, Ulster Unionist councillor Glenn Barr defended the flying of the flag as "historical" and said they were included in a flags protocol for Banbridge launched last year.

Mr Barr told The Banbridge Leader: "The Union flag, the Ulster banner and historical flags are part of that protocol, which the councillor he (Kevin Savage) replaced (Brendan Curran) welcomed when it was launched.

"The flags that councillor Savage refers to are historical, they are not there to offend but to remember. Instead of attacking the unionist community and creating divisions publicly why doesn't he meet with us to discuss his concerns?"

A PSNI spokesman said: "The removal of flags is not the responsibility of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and police will only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety.

"We will continue our work with communities and partners and respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred."

It comes as police confirmed they are investigating the theft of Down flags stolen from Clann na Banna GAA club in Banbridge amidst concerns they could end up on a bonfire.

The flags, erected in support of Down's footballers ahead of Sunday's Ulster Final clash with Tyrone, were taken from the club's Scarva Road grounds sometime on July 7.

Unionist politicians have urged for the flags to be returned.

In a post on Facebook, Clann na Banna said: "We would appeal to anyone with any knowledge of this to contact the police so that we can have our merchandise returned.

"Clann na Banna is very proud of our cross-community ethos and we welcome players from other communities at all levels throughout the club."

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