Man drowns while swimming across pond 'to remove Irish tricolours'
A PENSIONER has drowned while swimming across a pond in order to remove two Irish tricolour flags which had been erected.
The Northern Ireland SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said one man had attempted to swim across Bessbrook Pond in south Armagh on Monday evening "with the intention of removing two tricolour flags".
They were originally placed on the island area last week.
He said it was understood the victim had tried to replace them with a Union flag.
Victims' group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) have confirmed that one of its members Ozzy Bradley died
Willie Frazer, Fair's founder, said: "Ozzy, who worked tirelessly for victims in the area, attempted to remove two Irish tricolours from an island in the town's pond. The two Irish tricolours had been reported and indeed they should have been removed but were not.
"Regrettably Ozzy was then forced into taking matters into his own hands and tragically died as a consequence."
It's understood emergency services were called to the scene shortly after 5pm on Monday evening.
The victim was then taken to Daisy Hill Hospital.
Dominic Bradley tonight expressed his condolences to the man's family.
"As a native of Bessbrook, I know the family of the man who drowned this evening and my thoughts and prayers at with them at this very difficult and sad time," he said.
Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
It's understood two Irish tricolours were erected in trees on a small island on Bessbrook Pond last week.
Sinn Fein had called for their removal as they may have been seen as "overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening" by the community.
"The issue is one that is causing contention because obviously in Bessbrook particularly there is a mixed community," Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady told the BBC.
"I think you have to respect the culture and nature of the people who live in that area.
"These flags, some may consider them as overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening, and I think what we do not want to do in relation to this is perpetuate division."