Snatch of border sign dismissed as just 'a silly stunt'
Published 06/04/2013 | 00:00
Two masked men have posed for a photograph with a 'Welcome To Northern Ireland' sign they hacked down at a border town.
The photograph was posted on Twitter over the past weekend and has been circulating on the social networking site in recent days.
The image shows the men with their faces obscured by scarves posing with the sign at night.
One of the men is clasping a pair of bolt-cutters in his hand.
The sign was erected in the Co Tyrone town of Strabane at its border with Lifford in Co Donegal several weeks ago.
It is one of eight signs erected at entry points across Northern Ireland by the Department for Regional Development.
Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy has previously made it clear that such signs would be replaced if damaged or stolen. His comments came after 'Welcome' signs were torn down at Roslea and on the road between Newtownbutler and Clones in Co Monaghan in August 2012.
UUP West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey said that removing a sign was futile as it did not remove the border or the fact that it exists.
"This is a nonsense – the state of Northern Ireland exists and republicans have accepted that for some time – since 1998 with the Belfast Agreement. I don't know what is to be gained by removing the Northern Ireland signs other than the cost to the Department of Regional Development.
"No-one is going to weaken the Union by pulling silly stunts like this."
Sinn Fein West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff, however, said the sign hadn't been very popular in the predominantly nationalist town of Strabane in the first place.
"They [the signs] seem to be politically driven and making a petty ideological point and if the community was consulted they would reject them as such," he said.
A Regional Development spokeswoman confirmed that the sign had gone missing.
"Theft of Roads Service property is a loss to the public purse and incidents are reported to the PSNI," she said.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: "Any thefts reported to police will be duly investigated."