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Fury as DUP deputy mayor poses for photo with Irish flag burning

Margaret Tinsley and husband James in front of the bonfire
Margaret Tinsley and husband James in front of the bonfire
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A DUP deputy mayor has come under fire after posing for a photograph at a bonfire with an Irish national flag burning in the background.

Councillor Margaret Tinsley, newly elected as deputy mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, had been attending the traditional July 1 bonfire at Edenderry in Portadown.

Sinn Fein has called the image, posted on social media on Monday, "deeply offensive" and a "hate display".

Mrs Tinsley is pictured with her husband James Tinsley, a DUP councillor on Lisburn and Castlereagh Council.

Alongside the photograph, the deputy mayor wrote: "Brilliant bonfire... well done to all the volunteers. Always a great start to the July celebrations."

Following the post on Facebook, Sinn Fein councillor Keith Haughian called on the DUP leadership to discipline the deputy mayor.

"It's absolutely unacceptable that the deputy mayor and another DUP councillor posed for photos in front of a bonfire in Edenderry in which the Irish national flag was clearly being burned," he said.

"The deputy mayor is supposed to represent everyone in the borough, but glorifying this type of activity is deeply offensive to large sections of our society.

"Burning of flags, posters and effigies on bonfires is wrong and have been rightly described by the PSNI as hate crimes. I'm calling on the DUP to show leadership on these bonfires and to explain the actions of their elected representatives.

"Do they think the burning of the Irish national flag is acceptable or will they condemn this display of hate and discipline the party members involved?"

But the DUP has hit back, saying Sinn Fein is "in no position to lecture when it comes to commemorative events".

A DUP spokesperson said: "Councillor Margaret Tinsley attended the events in her own capacity and not as deputy mayor for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, with Alderman James Tinsley. The DUP have been clear in the past that culture is not the burning of flags or posters. Sinn Fein are not in the position to lecture when it comes to commemorative events within their own community.

"Respect for each other's culture works both ways. Both communities should work to express culture in a dignified way."

The Edenderry bonfire in Portadown is traditionally lit on July 1 every year. Last year the bonfire was deliberately set on fire early in what DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said was a "disgraceful attempt to stoke tensions".

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