Thursday 18 January 2018

Town Council officials 'erupt' over tricolour

Dundalk’s Market Square; the woman was abducted in Dundalk
Dundalk’s Market Square; the woman was abducted in Dundalk

Anne Campbell

A ROW over the erection of the tricolour at the Square erupted last week after Dundalk Town Council officials told Sinn Fein to remove them or face financial penalties.

A ROW over the erection of the tricolour at the Square erupted last week after Dundalk Town Council officials told Sinn Fein to remove them or face financial penalties.

The move, which came last Tuesday, led to Cllr. Tomas Sharkey accusing 'officialdom' at the council of having 'a West Brit mindset' and 96% of more than 1,100 people taking part in an online poll said the council was wrong.

But the officials hit back at those who had erected the tricolour, telling the Argus there is a blanket ban on erection of flags, emblems or symbols at the Market Square which was adopted by the council in December 2011.

The tricolour was put up last week as part of the annual Easter Rising commemorations in Dundalk which were due to take place on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, groups meet at the Market Square before walking a tricolour-lined Clanbrassil Street, Bridge Street and Newry Road before an event at St Patrick's Cemetery.

This year, just hours after the first tricolours appeared the square, council officials were in touch with Sinn Fein in Dundalk to tell them to remove them or face the financial consequences.

The party secured assurances from both the Town Council and the Courts Services that the national flag would fly on the Easter weekend on both the Town Hall and the courthouse and removed the tricolours from the square.

In a statement to the Argus, the council said: 'Since December 2011, we don't permit the presence of flags, emblems or notices to be placed at the square or at traffic signs or roundabouts.

'We would consider, with the exception of Market Square, the signs and roundabouts, applications from people for the erection of signs on our 'furniture'.

A spokesperson for the local authorty said that the council are keen to promote the use of the Markey Square and have engaged with many organisations in regard to its use for public events including concerts promoted by the BIDs company, wheelchair basketball promoted by the Local Sports partnership, and the 40th anniversary of the PDF 27th Battalion.

'All of these events were organised in cooperation with the local authority and in accordance with the event management protocol developed under the Joint Policing Committees and adopted by all four local authorities in the county,' he continued, pointing out that the guide makes reference to individuals and organisations engaging with the local authority and making application for evenst particularly where there is a proposed used of public property

'The policy was agreed by ALL elected members so it is surprising that some members should consider themselves exempt from the policy to which they approved and to which all other individuals and groups are expected to abide by.'

'Where this doesn't happen, we will, resources permitting, deal with the articles on our property. We are happy to consider any reasonable application'.

But Cllr. Sharkey was stinging in his criticism of council officials. He said: 'Louth Local Authorities seem to be embarrassed about the commemoration of the sacrifice made in 1916. There seems to be a West Brit mindset in the management of the Town Council. We have the Maid of Erin statue (at courthouse square) commemorating 1798 which should be a symbol and monument to Irish republicanism.

'The previous week, the Irish flag was flown over Windsor Castle, yet we are being told in Dundalk to remove it from the Market Square'.

The row rumbled on later in the week, when former chairperson, Cllr Jennifer Green expressed 'outrage' when Sinn Fein received an email from the Town Hall asking the party to contact the Town Clerk's office for an application form for use of the Market Square in regard to their Easter commemoration ceremonies.

Councillor Green said: 'this is a blatant attempt to restrict and eventually prevent the right of assembly at the square unless it suits the Council.'

The Argus

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