Northern Ireland

Nazi flags near Carrickfergus bonfire site taken down by "outraged" residents

Nazi flag erected in Carrickfergus
Image caption The Nazi flags were put up near a loyalist bonfire in Carrickfergus

Nazi flags erected on lamp posts at a County Antrim housing estate have been taken down by "outraged" members of the community, a councillor has said.

They were put up near a loyalist bonfire site at the Glenfield estate, Carrickfergus, alongside paramilitary flags and the union flag.

A Confederate flag was also erected.

In a tweet, First Minister Peter Robinson wrote: "Nazi flags have nothing to do with unionism. I commend the residents who removed them."

He added: "Shameful that such flags were ever erected."

Progressive Unionist Party representative Gareth Cole condemned the Nazi flags and praised local residents for helping to take them down "very swiftly".

'Outraged'

Mr Cole told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme that a member of the public called him at about 18:00 BST on Tuesday to tell him that flags had appeared in the estate a short time earlier.

"When I met the community they were all outraged, every single one and they were out on the street, disgusted at this," the councillor said.

"These flags do not represent them at all and it was them who took them down swiftly."

'Sinister elements'

Mr Cole said the bonfire was not publicly funded and added that he did not know who was responsible for erecting the Nazi and Confederate flags.

"I'm not sure who was involved, there's clearly sinister elements there that have put them up," he said.

On Tuesday evening, Alliance Party MLA Stewart Dickson said: "Clearly it's an incredibly sinister move to see any flag that has a swastika on it."

Image caption A Confederate flag was also flown at the site

"Part of the celebration for the Twelfth of July incorporates the memory of thousands of Orangemen who gave their lives during the Second World War," he said.

"For anyone to put swastika flags around a bonfire as part of their so-called celebration has taken a most sinister turn, and is flying in the face of everything that I ever understood the Orange Order to stand for."

'Utterly reprehensible'

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said such flags had "absolutely nothing in common with unionism or with loyalism".

"People from Northern Ireland fought bravely in our armed forces to defeat the Nazis and these flags should have no part in our society," he said.

"I do not believe that the vast majority of people who will participate in celebrations over the coming weekend want to see such flags flying and I welcome that they now appear to have been removed."

An Orange Order spokesman said: "The Orange Institution is not responsible for the erection of these flags in Carrickfergus.

"Public representatives, including Mr Dickson, have a role to play and should not shirk their responsibilities if there are concerns within certain communities regarding particular flags and symbols."

He later added: "Such flags are utterly reprehensible and bring shame on loyalist communities. They should be removed immediately and consigned to the dustbin of history."

Police had said they were "aware of reports of several flags in the Carrickfergus area and are making enquiries".