THE landlords of an Irish pub in Hereford have been forced to defend themselves after being targeted because of their nationality.

Sonia and Gary Caldwell moved to Hereford with their young family from County Meath, in Southern Ireland, to re-open the Grapes pub on East Street earlier this year.

When punters became aware of the couple's Irish heritage, they embraced it and decided to offer 'a taste of Ireland in Hereford' – with live music making up an important part of their brand.

But they have been forced to distance themselves from their roots after they were criticised for displaying Irish flags and bunting for St Patrick's Day, as well as being called 'Irish republicans' – a phrase that essentially accuses them of being linked to terrorist group the IRA.

Social media users have suggested that displaying Irish memorabilia in a pub which was previously frequented by serving SAS soldiers should not be tolerated.

This is despite the Caldwells having no link to any past troubles whatsoever.

They are simply, Mrs Caldwell said, a normal, hard-working family who have settled in Herefordshire.

She said: "We can take it – we are big boys and girls – but we have two boys aged 10 and six and I do not want any negative impact on them.

"I just want people to come and support us as we are not bad people. We are too young to even have any involvement in the Troubles. We are in our mid 30s. We have no political views bar what is going on in the world at the moment."

Problems first arose in March when Irish flags and bunting were put up to mark St Patrick's Day – an event which was celebrated at other venues in the city.

However, the memorabilia was removed by a member of the public overnight before a post appeared on Facebook stating it was 'racially aggravating' to the people of Hereford for a tricolour to be outside the Grapes, as it was previously a garrison pub used by military personnel.

Earlier this week, a Facebook post written by an unknown admin on Hereford Veterans Association page, called for people to boycott the venue and share their views on Trip Advisor.

The post has since been removed and an apology made and accepted – with a recognition that the view was not representative of the city's armed forces community.

Mrs Caldwell said: "We fully understand people may have had losses because of the Troubles and serving time over there but we stand with them in sympathy for those losses and had no involvement with it at all.

"There are comments on the Facebook page put on by our customers and most of them are ex-servicemen or families of service families. They have no problem coming in and supporting us.

"We have taken down all of our Irish memorabilia since the last post not to aggravate anybody. If you walked in now you wouldn't think it was an Irish pub apart from our accents."

The couple had been looking for some time to run their own pub and said they chose the Grapes after falling in love with Hereford.

"I did know it was an army town and the [SAS] camp was here. I had done my research and did not think it would be an issue because there is an Irish community living here in Hereford and unfortunately it just did not go favourably for us," she said.

"We are here for the long-run, we will work through it with people. We are staying here and we are not going to be run out because of a small minority."