Unionist politicians have criticised the flying of Parachute Regiment flags in Londonderry and called for their removal, ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
As parts of Derry city prepare to mark the anniversary, flags appeared in the Drumahoe and Newbuildings areas.
They have been widely condemned by nationalist and unionist politicians.
The Parachute Regiment was among those criticising the flags, saying they were “totally unacceptable”.
I share the position of the @TheParachuteReg - these actions are unacceptable and disrespectful. It is unnecessary and designed to be offensive. I am proud of our Armed Forces however the erection of these flags are not designed to mark any of those things. They should be removed— Gary Middleton MLA (@Gary_Middleton) January 24, 2022
Thirteen civil rights protesters were shot dead by British soldiers on January 30 1972.
Another man shot by paratroopers on the day died four months later.
The DUP’s Gary Middleton said: “I share the position of the Parachute Regiment – these actions are unacceptable and disrespectful.
“It is unnecessary and designed to be offensive.
“I am proud of our armed forces however the erection of these flags are not designed to mark any of those things.
CIARA FERGUSON MLA CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF PARACHUTE REGIMENT FLAGS— Derry SinnFein (@DerrySinnFein) January 24, 2022
The erection of British army Parachute regiment flags in areas of the city is a deliberate attempt to cause hurt to the Bloody Sunday families ahead of the 50th anniversary. https://t.co/YdIMpQ9K1Z #BloodySunday50 pic.twitter.com/PtW3jSCrYA
“They should be removed.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “I have said this many times. The flying of the Parachute Regiment flag on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday is wrong.
“It does nothing but hurt the victims who still grieve to this day and shows a total lack of respect and compassion.
“Please take them down.”
In a tweet the Parachute Regiment replied to Mr Beattie, saying: “100% agreed. Totally unacceptable and disrespectful behaviour.”
100% agreed. Totally unacceptable and disrespectful behaviour.— TheParachuteRegiment (@TheParachuteReg) January 24, 2022
Sinn Fein MLA Ciara Ferguson said the flags have caused “huge upset”.
“Given this British regiment’s brutal history in Derry, this is a deliberate attempt to stir up tensions and hurt families ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the murder of 14 civilians by the British Army in Derry,” Ms Ferguson said.
“I have stood with those families in recent days, they are steadfast, courageous and determined in their campaign for truth and justice for their loved ones.
“I am calling on all political parties and community leaders to condemn the erecting of these flags and to use their influence to have them removed immediately.”
Relatives of those who died and were injured on Bloody Sunday will mark the anniversary this weekend through a number of events.
Bloody Sunday helped galvanise support for the Provisional IRA early in the Troubles.
An image of a Catholic priest waving a bloodstained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety went around the world.
A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.
Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.
A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.
A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville concluded that the troops killed protesters who posed no threat.