A tricolour flag that has been flying in Kilrea for over 20 years has sparked controversy over funding for a new children’s playpark, Coleraine Borough Council heard.
The new playpark will be built at a Council-owned site on Coleraine Street adjacent to where the flag flies.
At a meeting of Council last Tuesday, councillors were told about the North East Region Rural Development Programme, for new play parks in Articlave and Kilrea and regeneration plans for these same towns. The projects will all be 75 percent funded by the programme.
However, during a debate, a DUP councillor questioned the location of the Kilrea playpark, given that a tricolour was flying near the site.
Adrian McQuillan said he believed the area wasn’t a shared space because of the presence of the flag.
Councillor McQuillan produced a picture of Coleraine Street in Kilrea showing the flag and its proximity to the Council land where the play park will be built.
He proposed that the offers of funding for the other projects - Kilrea and Articlave village renewal and the Articlave play park be approved - but not the funding for the Kilrea play park. His proposal was seconded by councillor Mark Fielding.
Councillor McQuillan told the meeting that he didn’t believed people from the Unionist community would use the facility because of the flag.
Party colleague councillor Fielding added: “I am all for this playpark in Kilrea, but only if this flag is removed.”
UUP councillor David Barbour warned members that they needed to be careful given that there was certain criteria for funding. “I don’t like what I see either, but we must be careful,” he said.
Alliance councillor Barney Fitzpatrick added: “It is dangerous if we start a policy like this. Articlave has painted kerbs. We have the opportunity of money and I think we have to take it.”
Independent councillor David McClarty agreed with councillor Barbour: “There are flags flying in Killowen, flags should be flown from flagpoles not lampposts.
“But it’s a shame that an entire community has to suffer due to the actions of a few. I know that the people of Kilrea don’t want this flag, but no one is brave enough to take it down.”
DUP Alderman Maurice Bradley agreed that the flag was not “representative for the whole community”.
He went on: “We need to be careful. I come from an area where flags are flown, but I wouldn’t like to think that it would hinder me from getting funding. If we set a precedent it’s hard to go back.”
UUP councillor David Harding suggested that the flag was there to provoke a reaction. “If we don’t go ahead with this playpark we are giving these people victory. We should go ahead and provide this facility for the decent people of Kilrea.”
SDLP councillor Roisin Loftus disagreed with councillor McQuillan. She said that the area was a shared space, and pointed out that the football pitch and the bowling club were nearby.
She proposed an amendment to councillor McQuillan’s proposal to accept all the offers of funding. On being put to a recorded vote her amendment was carried.