Jim Wells MLA Under Fire Over Rathfriland Water Tower Comments.
The Rathfriland water tower, owned by NI Water, was bedecked with Union flags on the Twelfth celebration much to the consternation of the republican and local nationalist community.
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hassard quickly responded to the ‘incident’ condemning those responsible. However, Jim Wells MLA supported the celebration of the Twelfth in Rathfriland and subsequently angered his political opponents in a press statement in the Irish News suggesting he has spoken to those who perpetrated the ‘break-in’.
Sinn Féin MP has criticised comments from DUP MLA Jim Wells after the PSNI launched an investigation following a ‘break-in’ at the water tower in Rathfriland.
The South Down MP said: “The incident where flags were erected on a water tower owned by NI Water in Rathfriland after a break-in caused considerable anger in the local community.
“It is now the subject of a police investigation and that must be allowed to proceed unhindered. Comments by DUP MLA Jim Wells on this issue have been unbelievable.
“He has also indicated that he has spoken to those responsible so presumably knows who they are. Has he passed this information on to the PSNI who are investigating this crime?”
South Down MLA Jim Wells,, in responding to his critics, said: “The tower was decorated to commemorate the Twelfth July parade which only comes to Rathfriland every eight years. This was a great day with the entire town bedecked with Union and Ulster flags plus lots of red, white and blue bunting and a new Orange Arch.
“Rathfriland Orange District held a wonderful tattoo in the town on 9th July which had a sell out audience. It also had an ‘It’s a Knock Out’ competition in the Square on the 10th July’.
“Chris Hazzard would not have made any comment had the water tower been decorated with Down GAA, Irish or Rainbow flags. He simply cannot cope with the Unionist people of Rathfriland celebrating their culture in a totally peaceful, joyous way.
‘As is normal practise the flags will be removed and kept safe for the next time the Twelfth comes to Rathfriland, and the people of the town will continue to celebrate the victory at the Battle of the Boyne long after Mr Hassard has returned to the obscurity of Drumanness.”
SDLP South Down MLA Sinead Bradley said: “Jim Wells should to provide information about a break-in and criminal damage at a Northern Ireland Water facility in Rathfriland.”
Ms Bradley’s call follows comments in the Irish News where the DUP MLA claimed to have spoken to those responsible who he claims merely ‘adjusted’ a lock.
Sinead Bradley MLA added: “I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I saw Jim Wells’ comments yesterday morning. It doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is, breaking into a Northern Ireland Water facility, painting the exterior walls and erecting flags amounts to a series of criminal acts that should be condemned by public representatives.
“It is astounding that the DUP MLA suggested the locks had been ‘adjusted’ as those responsible broke into the water tower in Rathfriland. Either you support the rule of law or you don’t. Jim needs to make up his mind.
“I also note that Mr Wells claims to have spoken with those responsible. Given that a complaint has been made to police about this incident, the DUP should provide this information to the police to assist with an investigation.”