Putting the flag of the Irish Republic on a bonfire should be a hate crime with no questions asked and dilly dallying when it happens.
That’s the view of East Derry SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat after counting six tricolours on a loyalist bonfire in Garvagh.
In a statement, Mr Dallat told the Times: “People should be taught to respect the flags of the nation they show allegiance to. It should be treated with respect and flown with dignity. In no circumstances should any individual or group be allowed to put a national flag on a bonfire without infringing in a very serious way the anti-hate laws.
“Those involved in putting tricolours on a makeshift bonfire in Garvagh are clearly stoking up sectarianism and hatred and must be held responsible for their actions.
‘Those involved have never contributed anything positive to society in that part of Co Derry. Indeed, by their drunken and loutish behaviour they has taken up a lot of police time and have caused a great deal of anxiety to those they have persecuted over the years.
‘The fact that UDA flags are flying in large numbers in Garvagh while the flag of the Irish nation is on a bonfire should leave the authorities in no doubt as to the intention of the small and unrepresentative louts that are involved.
‘The local community forum in Garvagh has written to local political representatives appealing for their help so that the village can recover from the damage done by these outbursts of raw sectarianism carried on by people who have nothing to offer to any community.”
Mr Dallat also asked why flags of loyalist paramilitaries “are flying from street standards in various towns across the North.”
He said: ‘It is time to stop finding excuses for ignoring this menace. UVF flags with 1912 on them are every bit as offensive as any others.
“Men who fought in the First World War either with the 36th Ulster Division, formed out of the old UVF of that date, would turn in their graves if they knew the current terror group was paying them homage. It is also highly offensive to the soldiers of the 16th Irish Division and other Irish regiments who fought alongside.
‘People who live in any town or village are entitled to a neutral environment free from intimidation. This practice which appears more prevalent this year than ever makes a mockery of the investment made in the peace process.”