Belfast Telegraph

Republican 1916 group claims Stormont Irish flag stunt

By Suzanne Breen

Unionists have described a hardline republican group's claim that it erected a tricolour at Stormont as "an extremely sinister development" that the police must investigate.

The 1916 Societies group, which opposes the Good Friday Agreement, yesterday said its members had "taken advantage of the lax security at the Stormont Assembly" last Wednesday.

In a statement, the militant republican organisation said its members accessed the roof of Parliament Buildings and hoisted the tricolour and another republican flag.

The claim follows the launch of a high-profile police investigation, involving seven detectives, into the incident. The flags flew for around 10 minutes before they were removed.

An Assembly official said the roof and fourth floor of Parliament Buildings were undergoing construction work at the time and were under the control of "building contractors".

UUP Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy last night told the Belfast Telegraph: "The police and Assembly Commission must investigate this republican group's claim immediately. This is an extremely sinister development both in terms of the security of Parliament Buildings, and of any other future potential actions which could put Assembly members, staff and visiting members of the public at risk."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "That an extremist republican organisation claims responsibility for erecting these flags shows how foolish were those SDLP and Alliance politicians who dismissed what happened last week as a prank. Nobody can now claim with validity that it wasn't a highly sinister incident. Both the PSNI and Stormont authorities must treat this matter with the utmost seriousness."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said: "What happened was very alarming and this republican group's claim of responsibility makes it all the more vital such an incident never happens again.

"But the republicans who hoisted the tricolour live in a fantasy world. The Union flag will continue to fly here showing that Northern Ireland remains firmly British."

In its statement, the 1916 Societies said erecting the flag was a "symbolic gesture" against "the continuing occupation of Ireland" which, it claimed, was "aided by local proxies of various political hues".

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