Councillor slams the decision to fly Palestine flag at garage
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
THE owner of Rockmount service station on the Rathfriland road has said that he "would love to open up a debate" about what is happening in Gaza.
Martin Ward has received criticism from some quarters for the flying of a Palestinian flag from his premises.
Speaking to the Democrat, Councillor Henry Reilly of UKIP said: "I think that it is very partisan to put a flag up on the property of a business that employs a mixed work force and has mixed customers because there are huge numbers of people in the community in south Down who have a large degree of sympathy and support for Israel.
“They see Israel being targeted continually by rockets - there are people being killed and while they can't condone children being killed in Gaza - at least they can understand Israel's right to defend itself which all these other people are over looking," he said.
“[I understand that such flags] are put up to show solidarity with Palestine against Israel. It seems to be that this thing has panned out so that nationalists support the Palestinians and unionists support Israel. And it is basically sectarian to put that flag up.
“The guy might genuinely believe that he is doing it in solidarity with Palestine but in the reality of Northern Ireland it is partisan and sectarian.
“I just think that he should be a wee bit more considerate of the feelings of other people," he continued.
However, when contacted by the Democrat, Mr Ward wanted to make it clear that the flying of the flag is not intended to make a political point and was to highlight the tragedy which is unfolding in the troubled region.
“I would love a meeting to discuss the said issue with Henry Reilly," said Mr Ward.
“My flying of the flag is in total solidarity with the slaughter of the innocents that has become Gaza. And for to put it into the consciousness of the people locally to be aware of what is really happening out there.
“It is not being highlighted enough in the western word or in the western media. It is being covered up.
“It is non political and I am absolutely non political in my own views and I support everybody and anybody in the local community," he said.
Mr Ward said that he would also put up an Israeli flag "if that's what it takes to join the people together".
He has been told to take the flag down, but said: "I have been told a couple of times yes.
“But the people telling me that are not giving me good reasons as to why I should take it down.
“I want to leave it up as a mark of respect to the lost souls until they come out and say that there is a ceasefire between the two sides and they start talking.
“All we can do is pray for these people. I would love to open a debate about this - only about the issue of Gaza and not a debate about local politics.
“I am sorry if it has caused offence to some in the community but it is not meant to be political at all," he said.
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