Fury of Bloody Sunday families after loyalists again erect Paras flags
Parachute Regiment flags have been erected in a loyalist area of Londonderry two days ahead of the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
The move has been described as "a shocking attack on democracy" by relatives of the 14 people killed by members of the regiment on January 31 1972.
Kate Nash, whose brother William was among the victims, said the actions of those who erected the flags at Newbuildings mounted to sectarianism.
It is the second year that paratroop flags have been flown in loyalist areas of Derry despite the Ministry of Defence (MoD) calling for them to be taken down. The flags are being flown despite community-accepted guidance, and efforts to remove them are ongoing.
Ms Nash said: "I have already raised this with the police because my main concern would be for the safety of the busloads of people that are coming to Derry for our annual Bloody Sunday march that may have to pass through this area. The police have assured me they are aware of the situation and will do what is necessary to protect the safety of people coming to the city.
"If the objective of whoever put up those flags was to antagonise or provoke a reaction then they have failed because the march will be peaceful and dignified as always.
"The British Prime Minister declared our loved ones innocent and described the actions of the Paratroop Regiment as "unjustified and unjustifiable", so what these people are doing boils down to sectarianism and is a shocking attack on democracy."
Derry chairman of Ogra Shinn Fein Michael McCrossan called on unionist leaders to help get the flags removed.
He said: "We had a similar number of incidents in Derry last year as well.
"Given the history of the Parachute Regiment in this city and the upcoming anniversary of Bloody Sunday this weekend, the erection of these flags is being seen as provocation in an effort to raise tensions in the Derry area.
"We now need to see leadership from within unionism to ensure that these flags are taken down as those who have erected them obviously did so to create a reaction from within the nationalist community."
DUP councillor Gary Middleton, who lives in the village, said efforts were being made with the community to address the situation. He added: "I have spoken to a number of people and groups to try and find out who put the flags up but so far no one seems to know the answer.
"There is an agreement within the community about the flying of flags, and that is they are put up at the start of July and taken back down at the end of August, so these flags are being flown outside of that agreement."
A spokesman for the British Army said any unauthorised use of the regimental flag was "irresponsible" and "disrespectful".
He said: "The use of bogus regimental flags, emblems or motifs is not only contrary to the high standards demanded and promoted within the armed forces but also inappropriate, irresponsible and disrespectful to the men and women serving with distinction."
LIST OF VICTIMS OF BLOODY SUNDAY
Patrick "Paddy" Doherty (31)
Gerald Donaghy (17)
John "Jackie" Duddy (17)
Hugh Gilmour (17)
Michael Kelly (17)
Michael McDaid (20)
Kevin McElhinney (17)
Bernard "Barney" McGuigan (41)
Gerald McKinney (35)
William "Willie" McKinney (26)
William Nash (19)
James "Jim" Wray (22)
John Young (17)
John Johnston (59)
John Johnson was shot twice on January 30, 1972 and died on June 16, 1972. His family say he died prematurely and that his death was due to the injuries received and trauma he underwent on Bloody Sunday.