Flags taken down in unique agreement

Some of the 150 Union and loyalist flags removed from across Portadown. INPT16-030
Some of the 150 Union and loyalist flags removed from across Portadown. INPT16-030

The agreement to remove up to 150 Union and loyalist flags from across Portadown involved people “never brought together” in such a way before.

The tattered flags were removed after a meeting at which agreement was reached between community groups and individuals within the PUL (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist) community.

The initiative was led by community development group Regenerate, which described the meeting as a “landmark event which was both unique and highly significant”.

Those attending included representatives from bonfire and flag committees covering Killicomaine, Edgarstown, Rectory, Brownstown, Corcrain and Redmanville. Political representation was present through the UUP, DUP, PUP and UPRG.

Other organisations included the ACT Initiative, community groups and cultural associations.

Areas from which flags were removed stretched from Corcrain, Edgarstown and Brownstown, down the Armagh Road to Edenderry and Killicomaine and out as far as Kernan.

Everyone was in agreement, that the flags are flown as a source of pride and a visual display of loyalty

Graeme Stevenson

The initiative is aimed at ensuring that the flags, put up in the summer and often left to turn to rags, are treated with respect.

Keith McCann of Regenerate said agreement in principle had been reached to create a flag protocol which may include dates for flags to go up and come down.

He said a similar protocol exists on the Shankill Road in Belfast where there are set dates on which flags are erected and taken down.

Graeme Stevenson, also of Regenerate, said of the meeting, “Everyone was in agreement, that the flags are flown as a source of pride and a visual display of loyalty.

“We put them up at the beginning of cultural celebrations every year but due to several different factors often don’t see them replaced or taken down before they are in disrepair and tattered. The agreed position on the night was ‘replace it, or remove it’.”

He added, “It was a significant meeting of people who had not been brought together like this before and it was very positive. People felt they wanted to go out immediately and work on the ground, and this was seen as the first opportunity.

“Within two nights up to 150 flags that had been left in tatters from last summer were removed across the town.”

Mr McCann explained the background to the meeting, saying Regenerate had been working “beneath the radar” for over a year, talking and listening to the community’s needs - and the “natural progression” was to bring everyone together in the meeting.