How many police officers does it take to investigate Irish flag stunt on Stormont's roof? Seven, apparently
Stormont has been turned into a laughing stock after seven detectives were brought in to investigate the rogue display of an Irish tricolour on Parliament Buildings, it has been claimed.
A further three constables were also involved in bringing individuals to be interviewed, according to the SDLP's John Dallat.
The East Londonderry MLA claimed workers heading for the roof of Stormont, which is undergoing repairs, are being searched for flags. The allegations came as the Assembly Speaker, Mitchel McLaughlin, refused to allow an urgent oral question on the flags display last week. Unionists were outraged after the appearance of the Irish national flag on top of the government building.
TUV leader, Jim Allister, who had tabled the question, accused Stormont of wanting to sweep the controversy under the carpet.
Mr Dallat, however, said the level of police resources dealing with the fall-out from the 15-minute prank had made Stormont a laughing stock. "I have been told that there were seven detectives interviewing workers in Stormont on Friday, with an additional three constables bringing in individuals to be interviewed in three locations in the building," he said.
"This morning I have been told that security staff have been given instructions to scan workers to intercept any other flags which might be weaving their way onto the roof of Parliament Buildings.
"These revelations are both laughable and lamentable. With serious crime on the increase, hundreds of murders unsolved across the North and harsh public sector cuts being implemented on the PSNI, having seven detectives tied up investigating a flag is scandalous.
"Too much is being done to placate the calls of some people who simply have no sense of humour. I feel sorry for the workers who have operated in some of the most inclement weather and worked very hard to restore the roof on Parliament Buildings. Perhaps the real problem is that there is no room up on the hill for a little mischief-making."
Mr Allister hit back: "This is the same Mr Dallat who, just a few years ago, complained bitterly about Translink flying the Union flag on designated days, which was perfectly legal. Now he complains that the PSNI are investigating a legitimate complaint about the improper display of foreign flags on Stormont.
"The PSNI have a duty to investigate this incident and it is quite proper that precautions are being put in place to prevent a repetition of the incident."
In a statement, the PSNI said: "We do not comment on operational matters. However, where police receive a complaint, we have a duty to investigate."
Tracey Brothers, the Tyrone company which is completing work on the roof of Stormont Parliament Buildings, from where the tricolour and Irish Proclamation flag were erected a week ago today, has made no comment.