The Orange Institution in County Londonderry has condemned the overnight theft of Union flags from a war memorial in Kilrea.
Four flags were stolen from the memorial, located in the centre of the village, during the early hours of Sunday morning.
The local Orange District is responsible for the decoration of the war tribute ahead of the Twelfth, and has vowed to replace the flags immediately.
An Orange spokesman said: “This was a deplorable act carried out under the cover of darkness. Such war tributes should be sacrosanct and those responsible ought to be ashamed of their actions. Their wickedness is deeply offensive not only to Unionists, but the wider community in Kilrea and the surrounding area, and more so the memory of those who fought in two World Wars.”
He added: “While these flags will quite rightly be replaced, we would appeal for anyone with information regarding this incident to contact police immediately.”
The incident has also been condemned by MLA Adrian McQuillan.
He said: “The flags were put up on Saturday night at 7pm, and didn’t even get 24 hours to fly.
“On St Patrick’s Day Kilrea is draped in green, white and orange flags, all we want here is a bit of mutual respect.”
The DUP man went on: “ A tricolour and a starry plough are able to fly beside a play park here 365 days a year, but four flags on a war memorial were removed in the space of a few hours.
“I would call on nationalist politicians to condemn this theft, which can only be described as an attack on our Protestant heritage,” he said.