A brother of one of those murdered on Bloody Sunday last night slammed those responsible for erecting Parachute Regiment flags in the city ahead of the anniversary of the massacre.
John Kelly, whose 17 year-old brother, Michael, was among 14 people shot dead by British paratroopers on January 30 1972, was speaking after flags bearing the regiment’s insignia were erected in Drumahoe and the Fountain in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Last night the flag at the Fountain was taken down after efforts by community activists on both sides of the interface.
Mr Kelly said the erection of the flags was an attempt to raise tensions arising from the ongoing dispute over the flying of the Union flag in Belfast.
“The people who actually erected these flags need to wise up,” he told the ‘Journal’.
“They are trying to incorporate Bloody Sunday into the flag dispute and antagonise people.
“Unfortunately this is not surprising for the Bloody Sunday relatives. We have moved on, particularly after the Saville report, but there are still those who, for sectarian reasons, have trouble with Bloody Sunday,” he said.
He also said he does not believe people living in unionist areas support the flying of the Paras flag.
“I would like to think most people who live in these areas don’t support those who put up these flags,” he said.
The erection of the flags was also criticised by local politicians.
SDLP MP Mark Durkan said: “Whatever justification people might feel about flying other flags, displaying the flag of the Parachute Regiment in this city is deliberately offensive.
“A provocative display like this can only cause distress and anxiety to the people of the Fountain as well as upset in the wider community.
“Such pointedly offensive deployment of this regimental flag brings no validity to anyone’s position on other flags or emblems.”
Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said: “This is provocation and we need leadership from within Unionism to ensure that these flags are taken down immediately.
“It’s only serving the interests of those opposed to the peace process and heightening community tensions in the city.”
Martin Collins from the IRSP said: “We have been in contact with representatives from the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community as well as other Fountain community leaders to try and negotiate with the people concerned to remove the flags.
“While we respect the PUL community’s right to protest in a peaceful, dignified manner we’d also like to ask the PUL community to respect our culture and displaying provocative flags of a regiment that was responsible for the murder of 14 innocent civilians in the Bogside is a step backward in the relations we have been working so hard to keep.”