Sinn Fein has strongly objected to the Union Flag being erected in a mixed area of Londonderry for the year’s largest loyal order parade, which takes place on Saturday.
More than 10,000 Apprentice Boys of Derry and 140 bands will mark the 326th anniversary of the ‘relief’ of the city with a highly colourful march through both communities on both sides of the city.
Apprentice Boys from Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, Scotland and England will take in a pageant re-enactment, wreath laying at the war memorial and a service in St Columb’s Cathedral, where the besieged Protestants gathered for safety during the 1688-89 siege.
However, the Derry Journal reported that tensions arose on Tuesday when Union Flags and Northern Ireland flags were erected along the parade route in the mixed Waterside area.
Local Sinn Fein councillor, Christopher Jackson, who visited the scene, claims the DUP had initially agreed to meet to discuss the issue but later pulled out.
“I received a phone call early on Wednesday from the DUP telling me the meeting, arranged for later that day, would no longer be going ahead,” he claimed.
He added: “A lot of good work has gone on in this area in terms of community relations. Many of the young people putting the flags up also said they would attend the meeting.”
But DUP MLA Gary Middleton said that DUP councillors were there on Tuesday night when two individuals objected to the erection of the flags. One who verbally abused the youths putting the flags up was not even from the area, he added.
“The claim that the flags are provocative is hard to understand considering the Union Flag represents many different religions and cultures throughout the entire UK.
“It was agreed that instead of putting the flags up in July through to August they were just putting them up before the Apprentice Boys parade on Saturday and they will be removed on Monday after the parade.
“Although a meeting was agreed on Tuesday night it was felt that a meeting was unnecessary on Wednesday, owing to the fact that the young people felt they were very reasonable with those concerned.”
Meanwhile, East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell helped erect a banner welcoming all those attending “Londonderry” for the celebrations.
The move comes amid what he said were attempts to “reopen the divisive debate” on the city’s name, he said.