THE local economy is suffering due to the presence of Union flags in Dungannon Town Centre, a councillor has claimed.
Union flags have been erected on lamp posts at several locations in and around the Market Square area and many have been in place since the height of loyalist protests following the decision by Belfast City Council to only fly the flag on designated days back in December of last year.
Dungannon Town Independent Republican councillor, Barry Monteith, has called for the Union flags to be removed immediately.
“Footfall in the area has fallen”, claims Cllr Monteith. “This is not surprising given that both Dungannon and the surrounding hinterland have populations which are majority Irish.
“Traders face their second Christmas under these disgraceful conditions. The local economy is under enough pressure without this continued hindrance.
“The people responsible for these flags need to remove them. They do not represent or speak for the people of Dungannon.”
Continuing, Cllr Monteith said: “Irish tricolours and union flags are flown in many areas without any difficulties as they are reflective of those local communities.
“Why, though, are these flags flown in Dungannon town centre, which is supposed to be neutral space?
“Are those responsible even from the town? What right have they to impose their extremist views on the rest of us? Obviously they don’t care about Dungannon. Everyone else is trying to get people into the town to shop and socialise.”
The Tyrone Times contacted the Roads Service about the issue. A spokeswoman released the following statement:
“In dealing with flags, the Department works within the Joint Protocol on the Display of Flags in Public Places. The number of flags removed in any year depends mainly on the level of requests for Roads Service assistance by the lead partners in the flags protocol.
“Currently the PSNI respond to issues where there is a concern for public safety or where it believes a criminal offence has been committed.
“Our experience has been that removing flags in the absence of widespread support across the community simply worsens the situation.
“Also we have to take account of the risks to our workers in removing flags where agreement has not been reached. We do not record the type of flags removed.”
Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council was also contacted about the issue, however, no one was available for comment.