Belfast Telegraph

Campbell accuses Sinn Fein mayor of being one-sided as tensions rise on loyalist and republican symbols

By Brett Campbell

A Sinn Fein mayor has refused to condemn republican murals in Co Londonderry as tensions rise over painted kerbs and sectarian flags.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused Sinn Fein of being one-sided in its handling of a row over loyalist paramilitary flags in Limavady.

"Sinn Fein's attitude to graffiti, flags etc, has been biased in the extreme," Mr Campbell said.

He made the remarks after Causeway Coast and Glens mayor Brenda Chivers called a meeting for local councillors to discuss ways of dealing with flags, emblems and political displays.

The request came after kerbstones were painted red, white and blue in the Benevenagh Drive area of Limavady and sectarian graffiti was daubed on St Mary's Catholic church.

But DUP councillors refused to participate after learning that no MPs or MLAs had been invited, and that republican murals in Dungiven were not on the agenda.

"Virtually every year Sinn Fein, and the SDLP to some extent, raise these issues as they apply to Limavady, but never in Dungiven," Mr Campbell said.

"Why is there a memorial to murder outside the Church of Ireland on Dungiven's Main Street?

"Why a huge tribute to terror on a gable wall in the town centre close to the library?"

Mr Campbell, who has requested that the "unsightly" kerb paintings be cleaned up and condemned the attack on St Mary's, insisted that "terror tributes" on Dungiven roadsides must also be removed.

"Is it too much to expect the same level of unified condemnation across the political divide?" he asked.

Tricolours have since been erected in the nationalist Glens estate in Limavady and kerbstones painted green, white and orange in response.

The mayor strongly denied Mr Campbell's accusations of bias, which she branded absurd, although she refused to condemn the republican murals.

"I'm not getting into Dungiven. I'm a Limavady councillor and it's a separate issue which is unrelated to the current crisis," she said.

Ms Chivers said the MP's comments had left her "aghast" and "angry".

"I am not biased in any way and I think Gregory is being very unhelpful," she said.

"I represent everybody in the borough and that is why I want to see all flags removed and all kerbs restored."

She said no MLAs or MPs from any party were invited to the "emergency meeting", which sought to establish a united response and avoid an escalation.

"We were the first to condemn the appearance of nationalist graffiti and flags, our MLA Caoimhe Archibald promptly did that," she said.

Ms Chivers slammed the DUP's refusal to participate in the meeting as "irresponsible" and said Mr Campbell's comments were unbelievable, given that "people are terrified" in their homes.

But he said although the mayor claimed she would represent "all the community", nothing could "disguise the facts which face people every day of the year" in Dungiven.

Belfast Telegraph

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