Ulster flag removed at Afghan base

editorial image

ANGER has been sparked by the reported removal of the Ulster flag from a canteen at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

A serving soldier said the Northern Ireland flag had been displayed along with the Scottish, Welsh and English flags in the mess at Bastion 1 to represent all areas of the UK.

The soldier said he was told the Northern Ireland flag was removed during July because a complaint had been received that it was sectarian, and said he felt “utter disbelief” to hear that.

“I am deeply saddened and very much confused if this is the case,” the soldier commented on Facebook.

“It is widely accepted that the Ulster Banner is the flag of Northern Ireland and is indeed used in major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games.

“I would ask Task Force Helmand to consider reinstating the flag, which I and my Northern Ireland colleagues think is the fair thing to be done.

“I am sure common sense will prevail in doing so and I will not need to take the matter any further.”

Bastion 1 was the first and original camp at the start of the operation in Helmand Province. There is now Bastion 1 and Bastion. The base is home to around 21,000 people, depending on deployment.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said that the only official flag at Camp Bastion was the Union Flag and the brigade flag.

He said it was common for units to put up flags on an informal basis, adding that he could not confirm or deny that an Ulster flag had been taken down following a complaint it was sectarian.

It is estimated that there are around 60 soldiers from Northern Ireland currently serving in Afghanistan for various regiments.

Northern Ireland Conservative Party spokesman Neil McNickle has been contacted by a number of soldiers who say they feel a sense of hurt and betrayal by the removal of the flag.

“It is a betrayal, there is enough real battles out there to be fought without creating more,” he said.

“Northern Irish soldiers are very proud of the fact they are Northern Irish. The removal of this flag, in the eyes of the soldiers, demeans their role.

“The flag is a little reminder of home – and there are not a lot of reminders of home for them out there.”

You can follow Rebecca Black on Twitter