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Council flies flags for Merchant Navy despite legal threat

By David Young

Published 04/09/2015

Red Ensign flies from Portnagree House in Ballycastle yesterday
Red Ensign flies from Portnagree House in Ballycastle yesterday

A flag row has erupted at Causeway Coast and Glen Council after Merchant Navy Red Ensign flags were flown at four main council buildings yesterday - against the advice of the council's solicitor and despite a legal challenge by independent councillor Padraig McShane.

The Red Ensign is a martime UK flag flown by British-registered merchant ships. Yesterday was Merchant Navy Day, and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council had endorsed the Seafarers UK campaign for the Red Ensign to be flown on public buildings yesterday in honour of Britain's merchant marine.

Sometimes called the Red Duster, it features a small Union flag on a red field.

Mr McShane had objected to the flying of the flag on the grounds that to fly it would be to pre-empt the outcome of an Equality Impact Assessment into the flying of flags on council buildings which is currently under way in the council area.

He mounted a legal challenge to the decision to fly the Red Ensign and said last night that council solicitor had also recommended that the flag not be flown.

His legal challenge was ignored, and the Merchant Navy flag was flown from four key council buildings yesterday - in Limavady, Coleraine, Ballycastle Marina and in Ballymoney - despite the advice of the council's own legal team.

Mr McShane said that DUP and Ulster Unionist councillors had insisted that the Red Ensign be flown and that he would he would now be taking legal action against the council for flying the Merchant Navy flag.

A council spokeswoman said last night: "The Red Ensign was flown at the four legacy council buildings because the original decision to do so - which was taken at an earlier council meeting - was still in effect, according to the council's standing orders."

She could not comment on the issue of whether or not the council's own legal advice had been against the flying of the Merchant Navy flags.

Belfast Telegraph

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