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Alliance Party proposes clampdown on flags flown on lampposts across Northern Ireland

Published 22/01/2016

Flags on the Ormeau Road, Belfast, 1 July 2015. Pic Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye
The tricolours erected in Bessbrook
The raising of Irish flags at a new social housing estate in an attempt to "intimidate" the unionist community has been condemned

The Alliance Party is proposing a clampdown on the flying of flags on lampposts.

As one of Northern Ireland's most toxic issues, flags are often seen as the marking out of territory.

The proposal to regulate flags - potentially with a licence system that would allow people to fly a flag for a restricted amount of time - would not impact on the flying of flags on people's homes, but only those flown in public places.

MLA Chris Lyttle set out three proposals to find a solution on the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

He said: "The issue of flags continues to be raised with us. In terms of people's own property they are entitled to fly whatever legal flag they want to.

"In terms of official displays on government buildings our position is long standing and clear. We think the flying of the Union Flag on designated days is a balanced approach."

"In terms of unofficial displays the Department of Regional Development own street lighting. The Minister of Regional Development confirmed there is no lawful way to get permission to display flags on street lights.

"That creates an understanding, a perception, that it is done without permission, it's done to demarcate rather than for open and transparent celebration."

He continued: "There are three options. 1. The current free for all. 2. clarity around the fact it isn't possible to display flags on street lights and who is responsible for removal and after how long 3. can we create an open transparent process where by people can gain permission to display flags in a time bound manner to celebrate rather than demarcate."

The party is going to consultation, to ask the public and organisations do they think they can "establish a body to which people could apply for a licence to display legal flags in a time bound respectful manner and for proposes of celebration".

Mr Lyttle said: "They would have to set out clear purposes, location, nature of the flag and when they would remove them. And if they don't to establish clear responsibility authority as to who is responsible for removing them."

He said the licence would suggest the allocated period of time would be two weeks.

"We are suggesting a period of two weeks and we are open to consultation and feedback from that. If the display is to celebrate a particular event - that period of time is reasonable.

He added: "We are open to feedback on that issue."

In a statement the Alliance party said: "This consultation does not question the right of people to display legal flags from private property, nor would it change the law around flying of flags on public buildings or affect people’s ability to fly flags on their own homes.

"But there is a need for a clear, transparent framework to give a time-bound, respectful approach which could create a fairer balance between the right to celebrate events with legal flags and the right of everyone to be safe and welcome."

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