Tensions have increased in Cookstown ahead of St Patrick’s Day, with flags erected along the main street.
In the centre of the town, a UVF flag and several Parachute regiment flags have been erected just yards from Irish tri-colour bunting, ahead of the St Patrick’s celebrations on Monday.
Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said there could be ‘no excuse’ for the flag of the parachute regiment, which gunned down 14 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
“The only reason there can be for putting this flag up, is to rub people’s noses in it,” said the SDLP assembly member.
“There was a lot of flags put up overnight.
“To my mind the Irish tricolour is the national flag and it has been put up for a national occasion, its use must be respected, and should not be used a weapon to provoke, nor should it be seen as some kind of threat.
“For some people to run around putting up UVF flags and parachute regiment flags, as some kind of response to St Patrick’s, is a reflection of the type of people they are.”
DUP MLA Ian McCrea claimed a number of union flags had been removed from Killymoon during the ‘dead of night’ in a effort to heighten tension.
“We are coming around again to St Patrick’s day and it comes as no surprise that I am receiving numerous concerns from my constituents of the antagonistic display in Cookstown of green, white and orange bunting and tricolours draped from end to end, on almost every pole.
“At a time when we constantly hear the cry from republicans about equality, good relations and a shared space on a daily basis, I find it difficult to understand the need to remove the flag of our country, given that the same people are more than happy to spend our British currency.”
He added: “Equality is replaced with hypocrisy when the unionist community view the town draped in green, white and orange, however if the organisers had really done their homework they would see that the St Patrick’s flag is white with a red cross, not a tricolour.
“I urge organisers to re-think there colour scheme for St Patrick’s Day, more in keeping with Downpatrick, use St Patrick actual colours to make it a more inclusive event for everyone.”