Union flags erected around Magherafelt town centre after council removed flagpole
Loyalists have placed several flags on lampposts around Magherafelt town centre in response to the removal of a Union flag and flagpole.
Loyalists from a group calling itself British Truth Forum erected the flag on a roundabout in the town in the early hours of Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later, a video emerged on social media showing council-employed contractors using an angle grinder to dismantle the structure.
The removal was branded an "outrageous attempt to dilute British culture and unionist heritage".
In response loyalists erected flags around the town on Thursday night.
Mid Ulster Council said it was working on a resolution.
DUP councillor Paul McLean said he supported the move to put the flags around town.
He said: "This is the loyalist people of the community expressing their resentment at the actions of the council in the speedy removal of the flag and the flag pole.
"This is the flag of our country and it has been discarded by our council."
Mr McLean said there would be no trouble over the matter as the community were "very responsible".
"We are not a terrorist community," he continued.
"This community, our community, my community is very resentful over the treatment from this republican-voiced council.
"We have had the Irish language shoved up our noses. Our signs, council vans all have Irish as a precedence over English.
"And what we have here is council officials dancing to the tune of Sinn Fein."
In a statement, Mid Ulster Council responded: "The council is liaising with its statutory partners and local community representatives to seek a resolution to this issue."
It added: "The flagpole structure was erected on the Diamond roundabout without authorisation.
"As the council had recently finished out the roundabout with a deep layer of loose and un-compacted soil, the erection of the structure gave serious concern in regards to its lack of an adequate foundation and overall structural stability.
"Given the serious risk of potential injury to pedestrians and motorists, the council was obliged to take steps to have the flagpole removed as soon as practicable.”
Responding to the furore, PSNI Superintendent Mike Baird said on Friday: “Police were in the area and observed a small number of Union flags being erected on lampposts in the town centre last night. Police were in attendance to ensure there was no breach of the peace and to identify if any criminal offences were committed.”
The dispute over the flag began 18 months ago after the majority nationalist council voted to remove the flagpole, which was erected by the Orange Order on a roundabout in the Diamond area almost 65 years ago.
The council plans to install a new cross-community £46,000 artwork on the site as part of a public realm scheme.