Parachute Regiment flags flown in Derry as plans are laid to target concert
Loyalists are planning to stage a flag protest to coincide with the Sons and Daughters City of Culture launch concert in Londonderry on Sunday night, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
This follows plans to stage another protest at the same time as the annual Bloody Sunday march the following Sunday.
In a provocative move linked to this, two Parachute Regiment flags were hoisted in the loyalist Fountain estate close to the Bogside, where the Bloody Sunday killings took place, and in the Drumahoe estate in the Waterside.
Members of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment was responsible for killing 14 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday and injuring many others.
Although the flags were later removed — on condition Union flags were hoisted in their place — the move has outraged nationalists.
The Sons and Daughters concert is the official curtain raiser gig for the City of Culture and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster and on the red button television service.
Sources connected to previous loyalist protests in Londonderry confirmed a demonstration is planned to take place at Dales Corner in the Waterside, near the entrance to Ebrington, where 2,000 people will watch the event in the Vital Venue.
However, a loyalist source said that talks were taking place in an attempt to get this particular protest called off as it could be massively “counter-productive” and bring negative publicity.
The plan marks an escalation in protests in Derry and comes after confirmation of the loyalist protest at the same time as the Bloody Sunday march on January 27.
In a sinister development on that event, a Facebook page, called Londonderry Waterside Loyalists, posted a link to eBay where people can buy the Para flags.
The Facebook page has since been removed.
Nationalist politicians said the erection of the Parachute Regiment flags and the Facebook site will be viewed as extremely offensive to many people in Derry.
Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan said: “Whatever justification people might feel about flying other flags, displaying the flag of the Parachute Regiment in this city is deliberately offensive.”
Folye Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney added: “Given the history of the Parachute Regiment in this city and the upcoming anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the erection of Parachute Regiment flags is being seen as provocation in an effort to raise tensions in the Derry area.”
Mr McCartney, who is also the justice committee vice-chair, called on the PSNI to take action against the protesters.
He said: “These are not peaceful protests, they are illegal blockades, and the PSNI need to step up to the mark and do their job.
“Prior to Christmas the Chief Constable Matt Baggott outlined what was legal and what was illegal during these protests.
“There are now stories emerging on daily basis of people in Derry being intimidated at roadblocks in the Waterside area by masked men. This is simply not good enough.”
A PSNI spokesman said police are gathering information wherever a protest takes place without notice with a view to bringing culprits who break the law before the courts.