Man drowns while swimming across Co Armagh pond 'to remove Irish tricolours and replace with Union flag'
A pensioner has drowned while swimming across a pond in order to remove two Irish tricolour flags which had been erected.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said one man had attempted to swim across Bessbrook Pond on Monday evening "with the intention of removing two tricolour flags".
They were originally placed on the island area last week.
He said it was understood the victim had tried to replace them with a Union flag.
It's understood emergency services were called to the scene shortly after 5pm on Monday evening.
The victim was then taken to Daisy Hill Hospital.
Dominic Bradley tonight expressed his condolences to the man's family.
"As a native of Bessbrook, I know the family of the man who drowned this evening and my thoughts and prayers at with them at this very difficult and sad time," he said.
Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
It's understood two Irish tricolours were erected in trees on a small island on Bessbrook Pond last week.
Sinn Fein had called for their removal as they may have been seen as "overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening" by the community.
"The issue is one that is causing contention because obviously in Bessbrook particularly there is a mixed community," Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady told the BBC.
"I think you have to respect the culture and nature of the people who live in that area.
"These flags, some may consider them as overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening, and I think what we do not want to do in relation to this is perpetuate division."