Row over prisoners' names on council-owned Christmas tree

Deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane, Derek Hussey said council workers were threatened when they tried to remove the names of serving republican prisoners from Strabane Christmas tree. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A ROW has broken out over the names of republican prisoners being hung from a council-owned Christmas tree in Strabane.

Ulster Unionist deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane Derek Hussey expressed concern about the practice yesterday after a number of council staff were threatened when they attempted to remove the names of serving republican prisoners.

Mr Hussey said he was contacted by several people who were angry that tags with the prisoners’ names were placed on the official town Christmas tree.

The row follows a dispute last month when the same council removed a Christmas message after Mr Hussey complained about the use of the word “Derry”.

The Ulster Unionist councillor said while the practice of placing republican prisoners’ names on the Christmas tree in Strabane had been happening for many years it was not appropriate to put them on the official council tree.

Mr Hussey said he was also concerned over reports that council staff were threatened when they tried to remove the names.

Strabane independent councillor Paul Gallagher condemned the threats but said the tradition had stretched back more than 40 years.

Derry and Strabane Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA) said it was a "traditional fixture in the calendar of the republican family" .

The council meanwhile said it was reviewing the situation.

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