Belfast Telegraph

‘Spiteful’ theft of Apprentice Boys’ flag will not dent Derry’s diversity, pledges Dean

BY DONNA DEENEY

Police in Londonderry are studying CCTV footage to catch a thief who scrambled up on to the roof of St Columb's Cathedral and made off with an Apprentice Boys flag.

The Dean, Rev William Morton, yesterday insisted the theft will not be allowed to detract from the diverse cultural events being held there.

The Crimson Flag — which was first hoisted in the early 1700s — was being flown on Monday to mark the anniversary of the Relief of Derry by the Apprentice Boys.

Dean Morton noticed it was missing on Tuesday but was relieved to discover there had not been a break-in.

Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Rev Morton said while it wasn't the original flag it was disappointing and regrettable that it had been removed. He added: “We had an event in the church on Monday for the Fleadh and another one on Tuesday and both of them were packed.

“Not only is the cathedral a place of worship but it is also a venue for many different cultural events and that will continue despite this theft.

“On Tuesday alone we had 1,600 visitors to the cathedral, people of every faith and no faith at all, and that is something we will continue with.”

The flag was removed sometime on Monday night — and would not have been a simple operation.

Rev Morton added: “Whoever did this went to some considerable effort because they would have had to go up on to part of the roof of the cathedral.

“It's not as if it was a straightforward removal from a flag pole that was embedded in the ground so it would have taken a bit of time and effort.

“There is CCTV and that should show who ever did this.”

Ronnie McKeegan, chairman of the Ulster Unionist Foyle Association, condemned the theft, which was the latest in a spate of attacks on the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall.

“The Ulster Unionist Party condemns these attacks and calls on all sections of the community in Londonderry to work to achieve a situation where there is sufficient goodwill and tolerance to create a truly shared city, in which the unionist minority tradition is respected and able to live free from intimidation and attack,” he said.

“The theft of the Crimson Flag from the cathedral is a particularly offensive and spiteful act given what it represents to those of us who commemorate the siege and that crucial period in our history.”

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