A unionist councillor in rural Co Londonderry has said those who stole a flag from his home must have little “confidence” in their own culture.
DUP man James Shiels, who represents the Carntogher north-west of Maghera, said in addition to the disappearance of the Union flag, property was also damaged.
The councillor, who was first elected in 2014, is the sole unionist representing his electoral area.
He lives to the south of Maghera.
In a statement he said: “This is nothing more than an attempt at sectarian intimidation, carried out by a group of cowards under the cover of darkness.
“So weak is their confidence in their own heritage and culture, and so strong is their hatred of mine, that they couldn’t even bear to see the Union flag flying without ripping it down.
“This is of course the latest in a spate of hate crimes across our area, where Orange Halls have seen attacks and flags have been torn down.
“There can be no doubt that these deliberate actions are sectarian and are being carried out in hopes of intimidating local loyalists.”
For example, about 10 days earlier Ballyneal Orange Hall (to the east of Moneymore) had seen two flags stolen.
He also said republican flags in the area were an effort to “intimidate” people, as were efforts to paint the word “London” out of Londonderry road signs.
He concluded that it was time those responsible “grew up, realised the unionist people are going nowhere, and started working to make this a better society for all”.
Police said the theft happened between 1am and 5am on Sunday.
They are treating it as a hate crime.