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Bloody Sunday relative’s fury at Parachute Regiment flags flying in Londonderry estate

Parachute Regiment flags flying in Shaftesbury Square, Belfast
Parachute Regiment flags flying in Shaftesbury Square, Belfast
John Kelly

By Donna Deeney and Brett Campbell

The brother of a man killed on Bloody Sunday has branded the flying of Parachute Regiment flags in a Londonderry estate as "antagonistic" and "provocative".

The Fountain overlooks the Bogside in Derry where members of the Parachute Regiment shot dead 13 people on Bloody Sunday.

Since the Public Prosecution Service announced in March that it intended to charge a veteran paratrooper known as Soldier F with the murder of two of the Bloody Sunday victims, flags and banners supporting him have gone up in a number of locations across Northern Ireland.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those killed on Bloody Sunday, said the appearance of the flags in the Fountain is particularly offensive because of its proximity to the area where so many of their neighbours were shot dead and wounded.

He said: "We have seen these flags appearing across a number of locations but to have them appear in a neighbouring area of Derry where our loved ones were killed is particularly hurtful.

"The people who are putting these flags up should be ashamed of themselves, because what they are supporting is the killing of innocent people, not just in Derry but also in the Shankill Road - people from their own community.

"I would demand that the community leaders within the Fountain and in all other areas where these grotesque flags and banners have appeared ensure they are taken down."

Mr Kelly added: "The majority of people within the unionist community do not want to see these flags flying in their area because they understand how antagonistic and provocative they are, but hopefully people will not respond to it.

"There is some great cross-community work being done in this city and these people are trying to undermine that great work."

Foyle MP Elisha McCallion has called on the community in the Fountain estate to listen to the appeals of the Bloody Sunday families and remove the flags.

She said: "Parachute Regiment flags have been erected in the Fountain estate area of Derry in recent days.

"This has led to offence and anger among the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday. The Bloody Sunday families have appealed to the community in the Fountain to remove these flags.

"I would echo that call from the families and appeal to people in the area to ensure these flags are taken down."

However, DUP councillor Graham Warke said people were entitled to show their support.

He said: "Condemnation from Elisha McCallion reeks of double standards when she glorifies and eulogises those who went out with the deliberate and sole intention of bringing death and destruction onto the streets of Northern Ireland.

"Will she commit her party to stop sanctioning and organising events which cause such 'offence and anger' to people right across our community?

"No one should be above the law, and the law needs to be seen to be implemented fairly, but people are entitled to demonstrate support for those who served in very difficult circumstances and are now seen to be receiving unfair treatment.

"There are many campaigns for investigations into the actions of the state, but people are also entitled to highlight the disproportionate focus on those who served here," he said.

"Ninety per cent of deaths during the troubles were at the hands of illegal terrorist gangs, yet there is no proper mechanism in place to investigate those crimes."

Meanwhile, the appearance of Parachute Regiment flags on lampposts in the Shaftesbury Square area of Belfast has prompted calls for them to be removed immediately.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said there is no reason to display emblems anywhere without the consent of the entire community.

"No one has any business flying the flags of the Parachute Regiment anywhere, not least because the regiment itself has clearly stated it is opposed to their display," she said.

"Such flags should of course be removed immediately."

Local residents have expressed outrage over the flags, which they perceive as designed only to offend.

"I'll be patiently waiting police to remove these as a sectarian hate crime," one woman said.

A spokesperson for the PSNI confirmed they were aware of the flags, but said no complaint had been received.

"The removal of flags is not an issue for the PSNI," they added.

"Police will only act to remove flags if there are substantial risks to public safety."

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