'Hate crime' | 

DUP call for sanctions after man removes Union flag from pole following GAA semi-final

A number of people on the road cheered and tooted car horns as a man scaling a flag pole in a roadside field

Man takes down the Union flag before the semi-final between Derry and Monaghan

Liam Tunney

Any GAA supporter found to be involved in an incident during which a Union flag was removed “should be sanctioned” by the organisation, a DUP MLA has said.

A video circulating on social media appeared to show a man scaling a flag pole in a roadside field and removing a Union flag from the top of the pole in the Gortin Road area of Omagh. A number of people on the road cheered and tooted car horns.

Supporters were heading home after Derry’s 1-21 to 2-10 win over Monaghan in the Ulster SFC semi final in nearby Healy Park at the time.

Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a “sectarian motivated hate crime.”

"Police received a report of the theft of a flag from the Gortin Road area of Omagh on Saturday April 29. Enquiries are continuing and at this stage, the incident is being treated as a sectarian motivated hate crime,” said a spokesperson.

The video, posted on Twitter by the @GAELDesignShop account, remains online having racked up more than 212.5k views, carried the caption: “Derry fans doing a good deed after their win over Monaghan.”

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said he had spoken with the family who own the field about the incident.

"This Union Flag was removed when supporters attending a GAA match in Omagh yesterday were parking near by. A man entered private property and removed the Union flag,” said the West Tyrone representative.

"This was theft and it will be a matter for the police. But there is also an issue of leadership. The GAA crowd can be heard cheering as the Union Flag is removed.

"Any supporter found to be involved in this incident should be sanctioned by the Ulster Council. I will be writing to the Ulster Council drawing their attention to the issue. Also if the man who stole the flag was attending the match, what action will be taken against him by the GAA?”

Alliance’s East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson said the incident was an example of people “stoking tensions”, while his party colleague Danny Donnelly said it would “damage the image of the GAA with unionists and undoubtedly raise tensions in the area.”

The party’s candidate for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Matthew Beaumont, said it was important to recognise the incident was not representative of all GAA supporters.

"I live in this part of Tyrone, about a 60 second drive from here,” he said.

"I should say 99% of GAA fans are respectful on match days where the local roads can be overloaded with cars and people.

"[Fingers crossed] the people in question are identified and dealt with, we shouldn’t tar all fans with the same brush though.”

Derry GAA and Ulster GAA have been approached for comment.

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