A councillor who caused upset when he brought Union flags into chamber meetings has rubbished his own council’s consultation exercise on flag-flying.
Despite flouting a ‘no flag’ policy which led to normal business being suspended, the TUV’s Boyd Douglas said what was needed in Limavady “is a wee bit of common sense”.
The issue of flags has sparked numerous bust-ups between politicians in the town.
Last month the Sinn Fein mayor of Limavady called for the Co Londonderry town to be “cleansed” of flags.
Unionists, however, described the comments by Cathal McLaughlin as “shocking” and said he needed to recognise Limavady lay within the United Kingdom. Mr McLaughlin said there had been no reciprocation to Sinn Fein’s role in securing the removal of Irish tricolour flags earlier this year.
The flare-up was the latest in a catalogue of angry political exchanges. Matters came to a head last summer when Mr Douglas flouted the council’s policy and produced a Union flag in the council chamber, leading to business being suspended. His actions followed the controversial 2011 mayoral appointment of former IRA man and Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, who was involved in a car bombing that killed six people in 1973.
Now residents in Limavady are to be asked to air their views on the divisive issue of flags.
The borough council is set launch a consultation exercise, starting in the Glens and Coolessan estates in the borough.
It will be held simultaneously in both estates on Tuesday, October 9 from 9am to 6pm.
Organisers of next week’s meeting said they hope the consultation will address issues surrounding flags in the estates and will allow communication on the issue for those involved.
Councillor Douglas, however, said he did not think the consultation would do much good. “What’s needed is a wee bit of common sense and I don’t think this a route the good relations should be going down.”
Sinead Barr, good relations officer at Limavady Borough Council, said: “This is an opportunity for everyone to have their voices heard — it's your chance to provide the information that will play a vital part in the success of this consultation.”
Questionnaires will be distributed to those in attendance at the flags consultation to gauge public opinion and concerns. Consultants from St Columb's Park House Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Derry will be present at both estates to provide assistance and guidance to all those who choose to voice their opinions. All residents in these areas will be given the chance to have their say. Following the public consultation, focus groups will be held in both areas where all findings from the questionnaires will be presented to the community and discussed openly.