Northern Ireland news

Red Hand Commando flags with Irish language slogan flown

Red Hand Commando flags, including the Irish language slogan 'Lamh Derg Abú', have been flown in Ballynahinch
John Monaghan

FLAGS representing a loyalist paramilitary group and inscribed with an Irish language slogan have been flown in a Co Down town.

The Red Hand Commando (RHC) flags appeared on a lamppost in the centre of Ballynahinch.

They include the phrase 'Lamh Derg Abu', a reference to the Irish phrase 'Lámh dhearg abú' meaning 'Red Hand to victory'.

People in Ballynahinch have spoken of feeling uncomfortable at the sight of the flags, with one telling The Irish News that the paramilitary group "should not be represented in a public place", close to a library and health clinic.

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The RHC, a small loyalist grouping with close links to the UVF, was founded in 1972 and was responsible for 13 murders during the Troubles.

Amongst the killings was the 1976 murder - along with the UFF - of former Sinn Féin vice-president Máire Drumm, who was shot dead as she recovered from an eye operation in the Mater Hospital.

The Red Hand Commando flags have appeared in Ballynahinch, Co Down

In September last year it applied to the British Home Office to be removed from the UK's list of proscribed terrorist groupings, as part of a bid to become a community organisation.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond junior was beaten to death by the UVF in 1997, said the ban should not be lifted.

The RHC flags with the Irish language slogan have appeared at several locations across the north in recent years and have also featured on loyalist murals.

Sinn Féin north Belfast councillor JJ Magee tweeted: "So no Irish Language Act, no Irish street signs, no Irish place names but hey Irish language on a Red Hand Commando flag, yes of course #headscratchingmoment".

The introduction of an Irish Language Act has been a major sticking point to the return of power-sharing at Stormont in negotiations between Sinn Féin and DUP.

Lamh dearg abu - or Lámh dhearg abú' translates roughly as 'Red Hand to victory'. Picture from JJ Magee, Twitter

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