New flags polling station ‘furore’ in Coleraine

Russell Watton PUP Councillor at flags outside St Johns Primary School Coleraine
Russell Watton PUP Councillor at flags outside St Johns Primary School Coleraine

A PUP councillor has claimed the “furore over flags at the polling station in Newbuildings has been replicated in Coleraine”.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillor Russell Watton said unionist voters in the Heights and Killowen area of the Co Londonderry town “face a daunting situation as they must walk past many republican flags in Pates lane to access the polling station at Saint John’s Primary School”.

Mr Watton spoke to the News Letter after it emerged a community centre in Newbuildings, Co Londonderry, has been dropped as a polling station after complaints over the erection of loyalist flags.

At last year’s Westminster election, the centre in Newbuildings was selected as the area’s polling station - but some voters complained that they felt intimidated because flags had been flown in the grounds.

The polling station will now move to Newbuildings Primary School, where it had previously been located.

Graham Shields, the chief electoral officer, took the decision after he investigated the complaints.

Mr Watton said: “I received numerous calls this morning concerning this predicament from people who will not be voting as they feel intimidated.

“Ordinary unionist voters must suffer in silence but many are saying what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

“The electoral office were good to change the building in Newbuildings over nationalist concerns over two union flags - so I am calling for the same consideration to be given to unionist concerns.”

He added: “Hopefully the electoral office will reflect on the predicament facing many unionist voters.”

The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland have been asked for a comment on the Coleraine polling station.