An independent councillor has compared the erection of a Union flag in the grounds of a Catholic church in Dervock to “erecting a BNP flag in the grounds of a mosque”.
Cllr Padraig McShane made the comments after a flag was erected in Our Lady and St John the Evangelist church.
However, he did stress that “it was unreflective of the community in the area who rejected the attack on the chapel”.
He also criticised the PSNI who, he claimed, looked on while “hooded men” erected the flag.
“To erect a Union Jack in the grounds of a chapel is comparable with erecting a BNP flag in the grounds of a mosque. Would we consider that action a hate crime?” said Cllr McShane.
“Unless there is a paradigm shift in the attitudes of the police and political unionism, the scourge of sectarianism in North Antrim villages like Dervock will continue to go unchallenged.
“I now call on the police to inform the public if they are preparing a file on this hate crime for the Public Prosecution Service.”
A PSNI spokesperson said that a passing police patrol spoke with youths who were erecting flags on the Knock Road last Wednesday, July 2nd, but no arrests were made.
It is believed that behind-the-scenes discussions took place with a view to resolving the situation but weekend newspaper reports suggest now that the flag will not be removed.
The PSNI spokesperson said: “The removal of flags is not the responsibility of the PSNI and police can only act to remove flags where there are substantial risks to public safety.
“Until the ‘Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas’ is updated, the PSNI will continue to work with communities and respond to any issue where there is a concern for public safety or where it is believed a criminal offence has occurred.”
“Engagement between local communities...and resulting in local decision-making” is the best solution, said the PSNI statement.