Loyalists unfurl new Somme flag and protocol on flying banners
A paramilitary-backed loyalist umbrella group has issued a new protocol on flags and bonfires with the aim of reducing tensions and ensuring respect for other communities.
The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) - set up last year with the support of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando - also unveiled a new Somme centenary flag, which it hopes will be the main one flown throughout the summer.
At an event in Belfast to launch the initiative, UDA leader Jackie McDonald stressed the need for the younger generation of loyalists to help make the code of conduct work.
“We have been trying to get our message home about a better way forward and better focus, and hopefully we can move everybody on in a way where we are first-class loyalists, not somehow as second-class unionists,” he said. “We want our people to be first-class loyalists.”
Winston Irvine, from the UVF-linked PUP, said he believed the new Somme flag would cut down on the number of paramilitary symbols appearing during the marching season.
“We know this is a hotly contested and contentious issue and we believe this is a very positive and constructive step forward in progressing that issue,” he said.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan TD welcomed the move.
“I commend the acknowledgement of the need for mutual respect, demonstrated in the development of the protocol, and look forward to these principles being put into practice,” he said.
The code of conduct issued by the LCC states:
- The Union flag and Northern Ireland flag should be flown in a respectful manner, in places where they will command respect and not be used for provocative purposes. Flags should also be maintained in good order.
- The LCC will erect the flag commemorating the soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division at the Somme in 1916 on arterial routes in loyalist communities, subject to respect being shown in the vicinity of churches and cross-community buildings.
- The flag will be erected in June and taken down at the end of September.
- The LCC emphasises it has no responsibility for any bonfire sites. But it appeals to bonfire organisers to ensure the siting of bonfires, choice of combustible material and any adornments added should at all times have respect for public safety, security of homes and business and safety of those attending.