Northern Ireland news

Union flags removed from Rathfriland water tower

Rathfriland water tower where Union and Northern Ireland flags were placed. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

UNION and Northern Ireland flags placed on top of a water tower in Co Down have been removed.

Arrangements are also being made to remove red, white and blue paint from atop the 110ft structure in Rathfriland.

The flags were erected "without permission" last month following a "break-in" and the issue was reported to police, the tower's owner NI Water said.

"It is believed the outer wall was scaled and the strengthened lock to the tower's inner steel access door was cut open," it said at the time.

Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard welcomed the removal of the flags, which he said had "caused considerable concern and anger in the local community".

He said a police investigation "must continue" and NI Water should take steps to "ensure an incident like this does not happen again in the future".

Built in 1977, the tower holds almost 700,000 litres of water and supplies Rathfriland town.

Police said they received a report last month of flags erected and damage caused to the water tower.

The paint atop the tower has been present in previous years. Flags have also been erected on previous occasions.

Last week, DUP MLA Jim Wells said the flags were erected and paint "refreshed" to mark Rathfriland hosting a Twelfth of July parade.

He defended the flags display as "very tastefully done" and said those involved have been admired for their "tenacity".

"I have been in contact with the people who decorated the tower. There was no intent to cause any ill feeling to anyone," he added.

His remarks prompted criticism from Mr Hazzard and SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley, who both questioned whether the information on those involved had been passed to police.

The PSNI yesterday refused to say if Mr Wells would be contacted.

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