Unionists see red in Tyrone flags row

TENSIONS are rising as Tyrone GAA fans bedeck the county in their colours ahead of the All-Ireland final.

It emerged that a civil servant was asked to remove a county flag from a car after a complaint from a colleague in Strabane.

And unionists objected to a sculpture in the town being draped in the Tyrone strip.

Two public representatives in the west Tyrone area - UUP councillor Derek Hussey and Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff give their opposing views on the controversy.

OPINION

Derek Hussey - UUP Councillor

"The issue is not so much about intimidation as it is about fair play.

When our community is seeking to express their culture, they are consistently run down by the majority community in this part of the world.

The Unionist community is the minority community. The Flags and Emblems Act was designed to create a neutral work place. We have had incidents before in workplaces where people were asked to remove football flags and people were denied the opportunity to wear their poppy around Remembrance day.

The legislation supports creation of a neutral work place. If this involves creation of a neutral work place such legislation would have been supported by Sinn Fein, particuarly with the implications for the west of the Province.

As a minority community in the west, there are those who do feel intimidated by GAA flags.

Therefore the legislation permits their expression of concern as a minority community. The major problem arises from those who would utilise such sporting emblems for political purposes.

I am not saying this particular person who was asked to remove the flag would fall into this category. There is a perception there are those who are not genuine sports fans would utilise sporting occasions to 'rub noses in the dirt' in the Unionist community.

As problems referred to, sporting emblems have caused problems in other areas before, but generally this is caused by those who are not genuinely sporting fans.

I support the idea of a neutral workplace."

OPINION

Barry McElduff - Sinn Fein MLA

"The Tyrone flag belongs to everyone. So, too, does the Ireland or Ulster rugby jersey.

Sport has the potential to unite people and I honestly feel that barriers are coming down as we speak, not least in the the matter of sport.

The Sam Maguire Cup will hopefully be making its way northwards on Monday 22 September. Sam Maguire was of a Protestant, of course, but it might not be terribly relevant to cite his religion. You see, religion is not what sport is about.

The Tyrone flag is red and white. Sometimes it includes the red hand. It belongs to everyone.

No one should feel threatened by a Tyrone GAA flag. If you travel through the townlands, villages and towns of Tyrone at this time, you will see them everywhere.

Sport is uplifting for individuals and communities. If Ulster rugby performs well in the Magners League or the Heineken Cup, many Tyrone GAA supporters will be very pleased. Including this writer.

If anybody outside Tyrone wants to support the Tyrone teams next Sunday, you should buy a flag or perhaps make your own. Tyrone shops are selling them, they are that popular.

By the way, I write as an individual member of the GAA, not an official spokesperson."