Northern Ireland

Castledawson: Christmas lights under threat in flag row

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Media captionSinn Féin have said Christmas lights can only be released for Castledawson if a flags policy is agreed

A County Londonderry village may have fewer Christmas lights this year due to a row over flags.

A community group in Castledawson has been blocked from receiving the decorations from Magherafelt District Council by Sinn Féin councillors, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The party said the lights would only be released if a policy on the flying of union flags in the town was agreed.

The DUP has accused them of playing politics with Christmas.

Sean McPeake, Sinn Féin group leader at Magherafelt District Council, said the lights were bought after a peace grant application by a community group in Castledawson last year.

"When this application came in, the town was bedecked in union flags," he said.

No movement

"The council decided to support the application, but as it was a peace-led application then it had to have some tangible peace outcomes.

"We decided that there had to be a flag policy in place for the town."

Mr McPeake said there had been no movement on a policy in the last year and that the lights may now be used in another town.

"We're disappointed that nothing has happened on the flag issue.

"The lights were purchased but they are the property of Magherafelt District Council, not the community group."

Anne Forde, a DUP councillor, said Sinn Féin were using the Christmas lights to make a political point.

"My view is that a community group cannot be held responsible for the flying of flags," she said.

"The community group have worked very hard to organise events in the village, including Christmas activities.

"These events are attended by people from across the community. The people in Castledawson are very disappointed about what has happened. They feel let down."

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