A SEVEN strong ‘flags’ committee was elected in Portadown to the province-wide People’s Forum on Monday night when over 100 people attended a meeting at Carleton Street Orange Hall.
It was addressed by forum spokesmen Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson, and followed two protests in the area on Friday night - one in Tandragee and one in Portadown.
Mr Frazer said, “The flags protests in the area are gathering momentum. They are a symptom of the way in which politicians have let the people down, and the way Sinn Fein have no truck with anything British in this part of the United Kingdom.
“There have been peaceful protests in Portadown and Tandragee and that’s the way to keep them. Otherwise, they would be playing into the hands of the republicans who are relishing the fact that loyalists are in conflict with the police. Meanwhile, the politicians at Stormont have lost total contact with the people.
“This forum has nothing to do with the so-called unionist forum at Stormont which is becoming ever more remote and unconnected with the people.”
Both the Tandragee and Portadown protests were addressed by Armagh City and District council member Paul Berry, and he described them as “responsible, effective and peaceful.” He added that the Tandragee event was a ‘White Line protest’, with around 100 occupying the centre of the Main Street, without disrupting traffic, and that it was perfectly legal.
“The protest followed a rally at the head of the town and it dispersed peacefully,” he said.
The Portadown rally followed a similar pattern, with about 100 or so gathering at the town square, and then moving onto Northway where traffic was disrupted for a while and then down Mill Avenue and Bridge Street - similar to the first rally. Mr Berry travelled across to Portadown to address the event and added, “Again it was peaceful, and that’s the way they must remain if they are to be effective.”
A spokesman for the Portadown committee said, “We are waiting for the province-wide forum to be fully organised and will continue the protests. The underlying problem is that the Assembly is not doing its job. They are hidebound with their own selfish agenda and are not serving the electorate in responsibility like jobs, health and education. All Sinn Fein seems to be interested in is eroding the British way of life and the unionists are standing idly by letting them.
“There must be a major sea change and we will do all we can to effect that. The flag issue is a symptom of the overall malaise.”
David Calvert of the Upper Bann TUV, who has attended protests in Portadown and Lurgan, praised those who carried out their protests peacefully.
He added, “TUV can’t accept that Banbridge Council can legally fly the flag 365 days a year but Craigavon Council can’t. Obviously it was weak unionists on Craigavon Council who agreed to limit the flying of the Union flag to designated days.”
He added, “It is only due to these protests that the council after 10 years has decided to review their decision. The reality is that if there were no protests there would be no talk of a review by both the DUP or UUP – they were both content with the status quo and simply followed the example at Stormont where unionists were more interested in appeasing Sinn Fein/IRA than flying the flag 365 days.
“Sinn Fein/IRA and the SDLP are happy to accept majority rule in Belfast Council so there is no reason why they should not accept a democratic lawful vote in Craigavon Council. The Union flag is the flag of our country and should be above politics and not subject to a vote in any council chamber.”