DUP man condemns vandalism of republican memorial in Strabane
A DUP councillor has condemned an attack on a republican memorial in Co Tyrone, saying those behind such vandalism are providing a "ready-made excuse for someone to carry out retribution".
Keith Kerrigan was reacting to an attack which happened last Thursday in Strabane.
He said: "I don't like seeing any memorial of any description being damaged or defaced."
The memorial stands in memory of IRA members Charles Breslin, Michael Devine and David Devine in the town.
A memorial board with images of the three men was smashed and an Irish flag was also stolen.
"War memorials are attacked and damaged, too, and wreaths are destroyed. I don't like seeing any badness to do with these kinds of things. I would condemn this," the DUP representative said.
"People should be allowed to pay their respects and remember their dead without this kind of incident.
"I was told by local press that a flag had been taken and I said that I didn't agree with that sort of behaviour," he said.
"I don't want to see flags taken from any area. If one flag goes there's every chance it could be replaced by hundreds."
He added: "What we could have now is a situation where it's a ready-made excuse for someone to carry out retribution. We don't need that at all.
"People need to show some common sense. Actions like this do nothing other than damage community relations."
West Tyrone Sinn Fein MLA Maoliosa McHugh said three men in a white Vauxhall Corsa car were spotted at the site at the time of the attack and the incident should be treated as a hate crime. "As they made off they shouted 'Up the UVF', but not before some people were able to get the registration number of the car.
"I've been made aware since that a car and assailants fitting the same description were earlier involved in the theft of Donegal flags from commercial premises in Lifford and that they were caught on CCTV.
"I made a formal complaint to the PSNI in Strabane about this hate crime and expect them to act quickly and apprehend those responsible on the basis of firm information available.
"There is no doubt that these, and other incidents over recent weeks, whereby the national flag has been stolen from the Hunger Strike Memorial at Townsend Street in Strabane, are the work of loyalists with the items stolen destined for Eleventh Night bonfires.
"The virtual silence of unionist politicians to these perennial acts of hate needs to end. The message must go out loud and clear from all political leaders that the burning of emblems or election posters designed to cause maximum offence is not acceptable."
Mr Kerrigan disputed whether those responsible had taken the flag to be burned on a bonfire.
"I think he's a wee bit far ahead on that idea," said Mr Kerrigan. "I don't think there's that much forward planning going on."
Police in Strabane said enquires are ongoing, and officers have appealed to anyone with any information to contact Strabane station on 101 quoting reference number CC 1059 07/06/19 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.