THE impromptu erection of the Tricolour by the Enniskillen Castle and Museum Complex at the weekend prompted wide-ranging speculation and annoyance in the area, with some people musing whether sinister motivations were behind its appearance, while others wondered if its raising was a clumsy prank.

The flag was erected at half mast overnight on a flagpole belonging to the the Department of Infrastructure (DfI).

The Republic of Ireland’s flag was first spotted early on Saturday morning, with photos of the limp flag swiftly reposted on social media platforms before it was taken down.

Speaking shortly after the incident was discovered on Saturday, Enniskillen DUP Councillor Keith Elliott said: “I am very angry to learn that last night someone managed to force their way into the grounds of Enniskillen Castle to erect a Tricolour on the flagpole.

“This is an action with the single intent of stoking up tensions in the area.”

Deeply concerned

Councillor Elliott was also deeply concerned about the breach of security in the area to erect the flag. Speaking in the days following the incident, he said: “I have raised my concerns about the breach of security with the Chief Executive of the Council.”

When asked if he believed the flying of a Tricolour was sending a political message, Councillor Elliott said: “Given the events of the weekend before, when the flag of this country was flying at half mast [for the funeral of Prince Philip] I don’t know what there was to gain by someone breaching security to go in and fly the Tricolour at half-mast.”

Enniskillen Sinn Fein Councillor Tommy Maguire said: “I’m not aware of any specific reason for it being erected.”

When asked if he thought the flying of a flag was a prank or had a deeper political meaning, Councillor Maguire said: “It’s hard to describe it all as a prank. It’s like all [the] problems with emblems and flags.

“Traditionally, [the Fermanagh councils here] have had a policy of no flags or emblems across the district.

“We’re all aware that flags can cause annoyance and upset for the various factions of people we represent.”

Councillor Maguire raised the upset that Union Jack flags have caused for his constituents.

‘Making soundings’

He said: “I have for quite some time been making soundings for the proliferation of Union [Jack] flags and six-county state flags that are flown on the entrance to Enniskillen, and in relation to St. Fanchea’s College, and have made representations to get them taken down.”

He added: “When one Irish flag is erected, it seems to cause quite a stir, so maybe the upset that some of the Unionist people are feeling about the Tricolour being erected – maybe they should consider that the same upset and hurt is felt by the Nationalist side of the community.”

Councillor Maguire spoke on how an emblem-free town could be beneficial for Enniskillen and Fermanagh as the county emerges from the pandemic.

He said: “Like everyone else, I believe we are a tourist area, and coming out of this pandemic we are going to be hoping for many visitors.

“With no foreign travel [at present], hopefully [domestic tourists will] travel to lovely Fermanagh, and I would prefer that the town is welcoming to everybody, and if one flag or another upsets people, maybe it’s better to take them [all] down.”

Consulting the history books, April 24 marked the 105th anniversary of the first day of the events of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, but no individual or grouping has came forward to claim this as a reason for the Tricolour flying at half mast in Enniskillen.

Staunch Republicans traditionally mark this date with annual commemorations during Easter week.

A Fermanagh and Omagh District Council spokesperson confirmed that the flag was not erected on Council property, but the Council alerted authorities in the DfI for it to be removed.

A DfI spokesperson said: “An incident occurred on Saturday morning whereby persons unknown entered the Enniskillen Castle complex and attached a Tricolour to the flagpole. The incident was reported to the PSNI, and the flag was removed.”

A Council spokesperson said: “The flagpole in question is not Council property, and is part of the DfI Roads Service Estate.

“On being made aware of the Tricolour on the pole, Council staff alerted DfI Road Service who subsequently arranged for its removal.”

Following on from the flag-raising and security breach incident, Rosemary Barton MLA wrote to the Minister of Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, on Monday.

Mrs. Barton asked Minister Mallon what investigations she has carried out following the breach of security at Castle Barracks, Enniskillen, a section of which is occupied by her Department, which also controls the use of the flagpole, and subsequently also asked what security will be put in place to ensure that there is no similar breach in future.

Responding, Mrs. Mallon said: “Action was taken very quickly by our facilities staff, and the [Tricolour] flag was taken down.”

She continued: “I am not aware of an incident like that having taken place before, but I will ask my officials to look into it.

“It is important that we understand how it happened, and, if required, additional measures will be taken.

“I want to put on record my appreciation for DfI staff and their swift action in ensuring that things were taken down and normality was restored.”