WATCH: 'Unauthorised' Magherafelt Union flag removed with angle grinder

'Unathorised' Union flag put up in Magherafelt
'Unathorised' Union flag put up in Magherafelt

An 'unathorised' Union flag that was erected by the British Truth Forum in the centre of Magherafelt in the early hours of Wednesday morning, has now been removed.

An Irish News video shows another group of men - wearing high visibility jackets - using an angle grinder to removed the pole, which was placed without planning permission on a roundabout that Mid Ulster District Council had obtained planning permission to site public artwork.

The original Union flag, which had stood on the same spot for decades, was removed as part of the town's £1.9m regeneration scheme.

But its removal was contentious, with Unionist parties and the Orange Order railing against it.

After the 'unsanctioned' flag went up again in the majority nationalist town, the Orange Order distanced itself from claims some members were involved.

A spokesperson for its Magherafelt district said: "The district was neither responsible for, nor sanctioned, this occurrence. Equally, the district did not support, or give permission, for the Union Flag to be removed in the first place."

Castledawson man William Lennox told the Mail yesterday he was behind the flag.

He said a group – some of whom he said are Orange Order members – put the new flag up between Tuesday midnight and 1.30am Wednesday and that "it was funded by victims, ex-veterans, members of the Orange Order and non members of the Orange Order".

Sinn Fein concillor Darren Totten subsequently called for its immediate removal, while Mid Ulster Council said it would "seek to resolve the issue of the unauthorised structure at the location".

But now that it has been removed the TUV is demanding answers.

The party's Mid Ulster Assembly candidate Hannah Loughrin said: "A video showing the cutting down of the flag pole in Magherafelt appears to show PSNI officers standing by while this criminal damage was carried out.

"Hate crime such as this should have no place in Northern Ireland and it should certainly not be taking place while the forces of law and order stand idly by.

"This was an act of criminal damage and as such those responsible should be brought to justice."

Police said they were also aware of an incident in The Diamond area of Magherafelt in the early hours of Wednesday and that inquiries are ongoing.