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24 May 2022

Paratrooper flags in Derry "an insult to the survivors of Bloody Sunday and the victims’ families"

Foyle MP Eastwood leads tide of universal condemnation and demands action be taken to remove the flags

Paratroop flags in Derry "an insult to the survivors of Bloody Sunday and the victims’ families"

A Para Regiment flag flies on a lamppost in Drumahoe on the road to Derry. The hoisting of it, and others, has been criticised for insulting the memory of those killed by the Paras on Bloody Sunday

There has been widespread condemnation over flags of the British Paratrooper Regiment being hoisted in parts of Derry.

Flags of the Regiment were seen flying from lampposts in the Drumahoe and Newbuildings areas of the city.

The Paratrooper Regiment was responsible for the killing of 14 civilians on January 30, 1972 – an event that is known the world over as Bloody Sunday.

These flags, put up in areas that have a predominantly Loyalist/Unionist majority, have been viewed as a deliberate move to antagonise the Catholics and Nationalists in Derry who this week are marking Bloody Sunday's 50th anniversary.

Foyle MP and SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, stated that the flags were a blatant attempt to upset people in the city and called on unionist politicians to show leadership to have the flags removed.

He said: “The erection of more parachute regiment flags in parts of Derry ahead of this week’s 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday has caused real hurt and anger throughout our city.

Foyle MLA and SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood

“This is a time where we should be supporting the Bloody Sunday families and reflecting on the terrible events of 50 years ago, not being distracted by the actions of a tiny minority who are determined to try and raise tensions in our city.

“The people who erected these flags speak for and represent nobody. Thankfully Derry is a city where people live side by side in peace and harmony and any right-thinking person will be appalled at the emergence of more of these flags in the lead up to such an important event in our shared history.

“These flags must be removed at once, they are an insult to the survivors of Bloody Sunday and the victims’ families.

“I would urge unionist politicians and community leaders in the areas where these flags have been erected to intervene and facilitate their removal.

“The anniversary of Bloody Sunday should be a moment for people in Derry and across this island to come together and reflect on the loss of 14 innocent lives.

“This attempt at cheap point scoring is shameful and should be condemned by everyone.”

Mr Eastwood's sentiments were echoed by Sinn Féin Foyle MLA, Ciara Ferguson, who said the erection of British army Parachute regiment flags in areas of the city was a deliberate attempt to cause hurt to the Bloody Sunday families ahead of the 50th anniversary.

She said: “There is huge upset in the city after British army Parachute regiment flags were erected in Newbuildings and Drumahoe over recent days.

“Given this British regiment's brutal history in Derry, this is a deliberate attempt to stir up tensions and hurt families ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the murder of 14 civilians by the British Army in Derry.

“I have stood with those families in recent days, they are steadfast, courageous and determined in their campaign for truth and justice for their loved ones.

“I am calling on all political parties and community leaders to condemn the erecting of these flags and to use their influence to have them removed immediately.”

Alliance Party Councillor, Rachel Ferguson – who represents the Faughan ward – also called for the flags to be removed.

She said: “These flags are hurtful to the Bloody Sunday families, as well as many others in the city, and this act is purely designed to intimidate and create a chill factor for those who live, work or visit here.

“I don’t doubt for one second the vast majority of people who live in these areas didn’t back the erection of these flags and political representatives from all quarters should condemn this. The lengths to which a small minority of people will go to raise tensions is deeply disappointing.

“I call on those who erected these flags to remove them immediately. All public space is shared space. But this is not culture or tradition, it’s a deliberate attempt to cause division and hurt in a city which is shared, welcoming and open to all, and it’s wrong.”

Cllr Shaun Harkin of People Before Profit also voiced his condemnation. He said: “The flying of parachute regiment flags on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday can only be described as hateful and disgraceful.

“We share the anger and disgust of families, of victims and everyone who is outraged and sickened. 

“The flags are there only to upset, provoke and intimidate. They should come down immediately. Those putting up the flags represent a minority intent on encouraging the dead-end of communal division and sectarian violence. The vast majority of people from all communities and backgrounds want no part in this. 

“The parachute regiment killed innocent people in Ballymurphy, in Derry and on the Shankill Road. The British state sent a vicious element of its military machine into Derry on January 30, 1972 to kill civil rights marchers. 

“The British state unleashes its military machine to protect the interests of a ruling elite who are not interested one bit about the concerns of any working class communities here. The savage murders of innocent people carried out by the parachute regiment on the Shankill Road is evidence enough of this.

“It has only been the relentless campaigning of families and supporters that has exposed the truth about Bloody Sunday and forced the British government to acknowledge the innocence of those it gunned down and then lied about. 

“The struggle for justice and accountability continues. We commemorate Bloody Sunday to remember the victims, to stand in solidarity with the families, to demand those responsible, especially top government officials and military brass, are held accountable and to demand no more Bloody Sunday's anywhere.”

The Mayor of Derry City & Strabane Council, Graham Warke, said that he would speak to the relevant community organisations for a resolution.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office said: “Mayor Alderman Graham Warke said he is aware of the ongoing issue with flags and emblems at a number of locations across the city and district and has been in conversation with a number of key partners in relation to this in an effort to address the concerns of all communities on this sensitive issue.

“Mayor Warke said he would continue over the coming days to speak with political representatives and community organisations to de-escalate tensions and work collectively in an attempt to seek a resolution to the issue.”

Ulster Unionist leader, Doug Beattie – himself a former British Army Captain – posted on the social media site, Twitter, his revulsion at the flags being put up.

He tweeted: “I have said this many times. The flying of the parachute regiment flag on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday it wrong. It does nothing but hurt the victims who still grieve to this day and shows a total lack of respect and compassion. Please take them down.”

The official Twitter account of the Parachute Regiment replied directly to Mr Beattie by stating their own opposition to the flags being flown.

They tweeted: “100 per cent agreed. Totally unacceptable and disrespectful behaviour.”

DUP Foyle MLA, Gary Middleton, also made clear on his own Twitter page that the flags should be removed.

He tweeted: “I share the position of the @TheParachuteReg – these actions are unacceptable and disrespectful. It is unnecessary and designed to be offensive. I am proud of our Armed Forces however the erection of these flags are not designed to mark any of those things. They should be removed.”

Meanwhile the PSNI have said they would encourage 'community resolution' on the matter with efforts being focused on inclusivity and respect.

Area Commander Chief Superintendent Ryan Henderson said: “We have received reports regarding the erection of Parachute Regiment flags in the Drumahoe and Newbuildings areas and we fully understand the difficulties the flying of these flags can cause.

“The flying of any flag or banner should be carried out with the consent of the person or organisation who owns the street furniture or property on which the item is flown or displayed. We will act to support the removal of flags or banners by those who have responsibility for a structure on which the item is displayed.  

“The most effective solution to this issue is community resolution and we would strongly encourage any and all efforts that focus on inclusivity and respect.”

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