THERE HAVE been calls from political leaders and representatives for the removal of Parachute Regiment flags which have appeared in Derry ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Thirteen people were killed and 18 wounded when troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in 1972. Another man died months later from his injuries.
No soldiers have been prosecuted for the killings.
Reports on social media have shown flags flying in the Drumahoe and Newbuildings areas of Derry, leading to condemnation from political leaders.
Just driving through Drumahoe, a suburb of Derry, where the Parachute Regiment murdered 13 people in January 1972, their unionist neighbours have erected a Parachute Regiment flag to "commemorate" this massacre #BloodySunday50 pic.twitter.com/hJdhiDp3tv
— Richard Grant (@RichardJGrant) January 23, 2022
Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has called for the immediate removal of parachute regiment flags from parts of Derry.
Mr Eastwood said the flags were a blatant attempt to upset people in the city and called on unionist politicians to show leadership to have the flags removed.
"This is a time where we should be supporting the Bloody Sunday families and reflecting on the terrible events of 50 years ago, not being distracted by the actions of a tiny minority who are determined to try and raise tensions in our city," he said.
"The people who erected these flags speak for and represent nobody.
"Thankfully Derry is a city where people live side by side in peace and harmony and any right-thinking person will be appalled at the emergence of more of these flags in the lead up to such an important event in our shared history."
Ulster Unionist Party leader said that the flying of the flags on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday is wrong.
"It does nothing but hurt the victims who still grieve to this day and shows a total lack of respect and compassion," he tweeted.
I have said this many times.
The flying of the parachute regiment flag on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday it wrong.
It does nothing but hurt the victims who still grieve to this day & shows a total lack of respect & compassion.
Please take them down. https://t.co/pqWlEuEntk
— Doug Beattie (@BeattieDoug) January 24, 2022
The official Parachute Regiment Twitter account replied to Beattie in agreement, saying the flying of the flags was "totally unacceptable and disrespectful behaviour".
Similarly, Sinn Féin MLA Ciara Ferguson has said the erection of the flags is a deliberate attempt to cause hurt to the Bloody Sunday families.
"There is huge upset in the city after British army Parachute regiment flags were erected in Newbuildings and Drumahoe over recent days," she said.
"I have stood with those families in recent days, they are steadfast, courageous and determined in their campaign for truth and justice for their loved ones."
She called on political parties and leader to condemn the erecting of the flags and to use their influence to remove them.
Foyle DUP assembly member Gary Middleton described the flags as "unacceptable and disrespectful".
I share the position of the @TheParachuteReg - these actions are unacceptable and disrespectful. It is unnecessary and designed to be offensive. I am proud of our Armed Forces however the erection of these flags are not designed to mark any of those things. They should be removed
— Gary Middleton (@Gary_Middleton) January 24, 2022
Alliance Party representative Councillor Rachael Ferguson also called for their removal, saying their erection is designed to "intimidate and create a chill factor for those who live, work or visit here."