A former Mayor of Derry has described the erection of loyalist paramilitary flags in Drumahoe as “very concerning.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming made the comment after a number of Ulster Defence Association (UDA) flags appeared in the village recently.
At least four UDA flags are visible flying from lampposts on the main road through the village - one of the main arterial routes into the city.
A number of other flags, including union flags and flags associated with the jubilee of Queen Elizabeth are also flying on lampposts in the village.
Commenting on the presence of the paramilitary flags, Colr. Fleming said; “It is very concerning that these flags have been erected on one of the main arterial routes into our city.
“While no-one wishes to prevent communities from expressing their culture it should be done in a sensitive manner and with respect for the wishes of other traditions.”
The rural councillor also said clear indications should be given about when the flags will be taken down.
“Anyone wishing to erect flags for any occasion should be mindful of residents and businesses, with a clear and definitive timeframe for flags to be removed,” he said.
One motorist who contacted the ‘Journal’ said the flags described the paramilitary flags as “intimidating.” “I drive through Drumahoe often and I found these UDA flags very intimidating. They are celebrating murder and gangsterism.
“I can understand people wanting to fly jubilee flags and union flags because that is the culture they identify with, but flying paramilitary flags indicated support for a very violent and sectarian organisation and that is intimidating,” he said.
In previous years, loyalist paramilitary flags were a common sight in many loyalist areas during the summer marching season but, as a result of agreements reached at community level, not as many are now flown. Instead, they have been replaced by union flags, Northern Ireland flags, Orange Order flags, and, in some areas, Scottish flags.
Concerns have also been raised about the presence of UVF flags in other loyalist areas of the city. However, community sources in loyalist communities claim that these flags are designed to commemorate the historical UVF of 1912 rather than the more recent loyalist paramilitary organisation which was responsible for hundreds of sectarian murders.
Flags connected with the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV) - the youth section of the UVF - have also been seen in loyalist areas but these are also connected to the historical organisation and often contain the names of First World War battlefields.
The UDA flags, however have no historical connections, and refer to the main loyalist paramilitary organisation founded in 1971 which was responsible for 259 murders during the Troubles, mostly sectarian attacks on Catholics.