Row over Omagh St Patrick's parade

Published Monday, 18 March 2013
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Sinn Féin councillors in Omagh have hit out at Unionist council members, after the Co Tyrone town's St Patrick's Day parade was rerouted because of Union flags.

Row over Omagh St Patrick's parade
St Patrick's parades have taken place all over Northern Ireland. (© Presseye)

Monday's parade was expected to pass through the Campsie and Crevanagh Road areas, but that was changed over concerns a number of flags were put up along the route.

The decision to reroute was taken during a two-hour long emergency council meeting hours before the event was due to begin.

Cllr Sean Begley, of Sinn Féin, said the failure of Unionist representatives to have the flags removed defied the plan for an inclusive event.

"We have been engaged extensively with unionist representatives regarding the proliferation of union flags along the parade route," he explained.

"We made the case that the huge number of flags makes the environment uncomfortable for many nationalists and completely undermines the council's policy of neutrality.

'However, despite this, unionist representatives refused to try and deal with the issue and in light of this we voted to change the route of today's parade to one that is more inclusive.

"It is highly frustrating that unionists like to talk about cultural equality but when it comes to actually showing leadership they fail miserably."

The parade began at 1pm and started from the Grange car park and along the Mountjoy Road, Drumragh Avenue and Market Street on its way into the town centre.

A spokesman for Omagh District Council said the change "followed concerns being expressed about the neutrality of part of the parade route".

But Omagh District Council chairman, Errol Thompson, said it was a "backwards step" for community relations in the town.

"The idea of St Patrick's is it's a day for everyone. We asked them [Sinn Féin] to have 10 minutes of tolerance on this issue but they were not prepared to move on it," said the DUP representative.

He said the decision to have the parade travel along the Campsie Road area was an attempt to make it more inclusive, and all parties were aware that Union flags had been put up on the route earlier this year.

Mr Thompson added that community relations in Omagh have never been better, but Monday's decision could rock the boat.

"The unionist community in Omagh today will be feeling that they have been sidelined," he added.

"I fear for the future of the parade for it being inclusive."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
55 Comments
Steffan in Belfast wrote (526 days ago):
The problem is Sein Fein say 'shared future' but they mean 'All Ireland'
WTF in Ards wrote (526 days ago):
Any chance we in Northern Ireland could have our flag please. @Maggie......can I assume that you'd have been happy enough for the tricolour to have been flown though?
Lee in Belfast wrote (527 days ago):
SF/IRA pulling the strings here to stoke tension and cause hatred , pretty much what they have been doing from their inception.
richard in armagh wrote (527 days ago):
sure its only a flag yet sinn fien didnt want to walk past it if you want a shared furure respect our union flag
petand in Londonderry wrote (527 days ago):
@ george hall in Aberdeen. Before you make comments you should get your facts right. The Irish tricolour is Green, White and Orange (not gold).It has been in existence from the 1880's and flown during the 1916 rebellion therefore it is a pre-partition banner. It symbolises a desire for peace and equality between the two major aspects of Irish cultural identity. The St. Patrick saltire is an imposition by an English King as indeed is the harp on a field of green.
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