Ballymoney DUP Councillor, John Finlay, has condemned the theft of a Union Flag from a pole in Finvoy as a highly provocative act designed to insult the local unionist community and further heighten tension in the area. He has also challenged Sinn Fein to condemn the incident.
Cllr Finlay said: “A few days ago, a local resident of Finvoy reported to me that a car containing five people stopped near an house. Four people jumped out and tore down a Union Flag from a pole and then shouted “up the IRA” before speeding off in the direction of Rasharkin.
“This was not only an illegal act but a highly provocative one designed to insult the local unionist community and further heighten tension in Finvoy and beyond. I call on the police to take swift action to apprehend the culprits.
“I also call on Sinn Fein to condemn it. Councillor Philip McGuigan criticised the 11th night bonfire in the area and his comments at that time had the effect of raising tensions. The theft of the national flag of our country exacerbates those tensions and is a further insult to the Protestant and unionist people of Finvoy. Councillor McGuigan has a duty to forthrightly and unreservedly condemn this crime and to assist the police in their investigation. Failure on his part to do so will merely confirm the true nature of his agenda”.
Responding to Cllr Finlay’s comments Cllr Philip Mc Guigan said: “The Comments of John Finlay on the removal of this flag and his silence around the burning of tyres at Finvoy bonfire, the theft and burning of election posters on Finvoy bonfire, the theft and burning of the Irish National flag on Finvoy bonfire, the theft and burning of local GAA club flags on Finvoy bonfire, the promotion of Racist and sectarian graffiti on Finvoy bonfire really does highlight the petty, narrow self serving leaderless agenda of DUP politicians.
“I have no difficulty speaking out against the removal of a flag in Finvoy or anywhere else for that matter. No one should be engaging in any activity anywhere in this Borough with the intention of causing offence, raising tensions, or fuelling sectarianism.
“I make these comments not on behalf of the Republican or Nationalist community but on behalf of non sectarian common sense community. 1690 was 324 years ago. It may be news to John Finlay and the DUP but there is a sizable number of people in Ballymoney, Unionist and Nationalist alike, who have moved on. They are concerned about jobs, education, health, transport and the future. They want their politicians to have common sense and apply the same standards to everyone when making decisions.
“Sinn Féin want to work to create an environment were the expression of culture or identity is exactly that and doesn’t have a negative impact on anybody else. It would be great if others in the council chamber felt the same way.
“To that end Sinn Féin have submitted the following motion for discussion at the next Ballymoney council meeting: ‘That Ballymoney Council works effectively to end sectarian, illegal and anti–social activity within the Borough. That councillors recognise their responsibility and support the efforts, through their words and actions, of council officers and other statutory organisations working to end the illegal burning of tyres on bonfires, the promotion of hate crime, the placing and/or removal of cultural flags and symbols in an act meant to intimidate or cause offense to others. That this council recognises the damage that these activities do to community relations and also the financial cost to ratepayers.’
I look forward to gaining the support of Councillor Finlay and his colleagues.