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New flag debate plea after drowning in Bessbrook

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A drowning tragedy in a lake at the centre of a flags dispute in Northern Ireland highlights the need to finally deal with the issue at Stormont, an Assembly member has claimed.

Oswald Bradley, 68, died when he got into difficulties while swimming in Bessbrook Pond in Co Armagh yesterday evening.

It is understood the well-known painter and decorator was trying to swim out to a small island to remove two Irish tricolours that had been hung from trees.

The erection of the flags in the village earlier this month caused community tensions and political parties from all sides, including Sinn Fein, called for their removal.

The incident played out at a time when politicians at Stormont remain at loggerheads on the outstanding peace process issues of flags, parades and the legacy of the past.

The latest bid to find consensus ended in disarray at the start of the month when unionists walked out of a cross-party talks initiative in protest at a decision to restrict a controversial Orange Order parade.

SDLP Assembly member Dominic Bradley, who passed his condolences to the pensioner’s family, said the drowning emphasised the need for action.

“It highlights the need to get back into talks on the past, flags and parades and to reach an agreement so events like yesterday are less likely to occur in the future,” said the Newry and Armagh representative.

Ulster Unionist MLA for the area Danny Kennedy said Mr Bradley’s death was a “real tragedy”.

“This is a very tragic outcome to controversies surrounding flags in this village,” he said. “This is too high a price for any family and community to pay”.

 
 
 

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