Flags ‘will go up across town’, group pledges

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A LOYALIST group has vowed to erect Union flags across Larne until every major route into the town is lined with a flag.

The newly established Larne People’s Forum has warned against the removal of any of the flags, saying that any taken down will be “replaced by two more”.

They also claimed that the removal of flags would see “every kerbstone” being painted red, white and blue.

“There are plenty more flags to go up,” said a spokeswoman for the group. “Every road coming into Larne, every arterial route, will have flags on it.”

The move by LPF follows the controversial decision by Belfast City Council last year to only fly the Union flag on designated days. This led to widespread protests across the province, including Larne, when over 1000 people marched along Victoria Road and gathered outside Smiley Buildings in December to highlight their anger with the decision.

Last month, a second protest was held at Larne Council offices, when over 30 flag protesters held a peaceful white line demonstration. The demonstrators, waving Union flags and holding a banner stating “Larne supports the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall”, began their protest just minutes before Larne Borough Council was due to hold its monthly meeting.

When the meeting began, more than a dozen protesters entered the council chamber, took seats in the public area and silently watched the proceedings. All the protesters left the chamber by the end of the meeting.

Neither of these local protests ended in violence, unlike some others that were staged in other parts of Northern Ireland.

The LPF spokeswoman told the Times: “We are just the everyday people of Larne – ordinary people who are concerned about our British culture being taken away.

“The flags will be paid for out of our own pockets. We all feel very strongly about this issue. It’s not just about the flag, it’s about every single part of our culture being stripped away.”

The vow made by LPF also coincides with events in Portadown earlier this month, when a loyalist group pledged to ensure every major road into the town would have a Union flag.

In an interview with the Portadown Times, the group hit back at criticism levelled against them, when one reader described them as “tribal terrorists”.

A spokesman for the group told the Portadown Times: “We feel we have not been fairly represented. Nothing is said about the flags flown on the Garvaghy Road over Easter and when republicans held street parties to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, the police were nowhere to be seen.”

And the group said it will continue to hold protests in the town every week, as they have done since the decision to remove the Union flag from City Hall.

They also stressed that criticism of damaged flags flying was unwarranted.

“If there is a ripped or torn flag they will be replaced as soon as possible, and, as we said, the new flags will be paid out of our own pockets,” they added.

“It’s important to note that the police haven’t attempted to stop us putting the flags up. We do it in daylight and no-one disguising their faces.”