Belfast Telegraph

Breakaway St Patrick's Day parade in Strabane after tricolour ban

By Leona O'Neill

Strabane republicans are planning a breakaway St Patrick's Day march which will allow Irish tricolours to be flown after the local council banned the flag from the official celebrations.

Last week it was announced that Derry City and Strabane District Council had banned all flags and emblems from its parades.

It said it wanted the celebrations to be cross-community and family focused.

However, republican bands are believed to be applying to the Parades Commission for permission to hold their own march where they would be free to fly the flag without restrictions.

The flag issue will be discussed at a special meeting of Derry and Strabane District Council today.

Independent councillor Paul Gallagher said if the tricolour ban is upheld "it will put back community relations 20 years".

"What I'm hearing on the ground in Strabane with regards the decision made by council is that there may be republican bands who may file for their own parade where they can fly the tricolour on the streets of Strabane on St Patrick's Day," he said.

"Council will meet later today. I will impress upon the meeting the real serious implications, the issues around community relations that this decision has had on the people of Strabane.

"I think that if this is carried forward, this will put community relations back 20 years.

"From conversations I've had with people in the streets of Strabane, people are telling me that they believe that their culture is being eroded, that they can see other events organised by council across the north where the Union Jack is flown. People are angry," Mr Gallagher continued.

"I think councillors in the chamber today must give leadership and must give direction to council officials and council staff. If there is a willingness then I think this can be easily resolved."

A spokesman for Derry City and Strabane Council said: "In keeping with the paper approved by the council's business and culture committee, the event will be a cross-community cultural celebration with a strong family-friendly focus.

"Therefore, flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone.

"Council is working closely with all the groups involved to ensure the cross-community principles of the event are reflected in the parade."

Belfast Telegraph

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