New flag debate plea after Co Armagh drowning

Tuesday 29 July 2014 19.09
Two Irish tricolours were hung from trees on the island in Bessbrook Pond
Two Irish tricolours were hung from trees on the island in Bessbrook Pond

A man has drowned while swimming to an island on a Co Armagh lake.

Oswald Bradley, 68, died when he got into difficulties while swimming in Bessbrook Pond in Co Armagh yesterday evening.

It is believed Mr Bradley, who lived locally, was swimming to the island to remove to Irish tricolours which had been hung from trees.

The raising of the flags in the village earlier this month caused community tensions and political parties from all sides, including Sinn Féin, called for their removal.

The incident played out at a time when politicians at Stormont remain at loggerheads on the outstanding peace process issues of flags, parades and the legacy of the past.

The drowning highlights the need to finally deal with the issue of flags at Stormont, an Assembly member has claimed.

The latest bid to find consensus ended in disarray at the start of the month when unionists walked out of a cross-party talks initiative in protest at a decision to restrict a controversial Orange Order parade.

SDLP Assembly member Dominic Bradley said the drowning emphasised the need for action.

"It highlights the need to get back into talks on the past, flags and parades and to reach an agreement so events like yesterday are less likely to occur in the future," said the Newry and Armagh representative.

Ulster Unionist MLA for the area Danny Kennedy said Mr Bradley's death was a "real tragedy".

"This is a very tragic outcome to controversies surrounding flags in this village," he said.

"This is too high a price for any family and community to pay."

The flags have now been taken down.

Police say they are not treating the incident as suspicious.