Unionist fury as councillor displays Irish tricolour in Coleraine chamber
A republican councillor has been rapped for displaying an Irish tricolour and a Palestinian flag in Coleraine council chamber.
A photograph has emerged of Padraig McShane along with Londonderry councillors Gary Donnelly and Darren O'Reilly sitting at a desk in the chamber behind the flags.
It is understood the incident took place last Thursday during a visit by Mohamed Al-Halabi, the international director of co-operation for the municipality of Gaza.
It came just days after a stormy committee meeting at the Causeway Coast and Glens council over the formation of a new policy on flags. Councillors agreed at committee to fly the Union flag all year round. The new flag policy is set to be voted on at a full meeting of the council next month. If agreed, it will mean the Union flag will fly all year round at the town hall buildings in Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Ballycastle. It would also fly five days a week from council offices across the borough.
With a unionist majority on the council, the new policy is expected to be voted through.
Unionist councillors from the DUP, UUP and TUV have all blasted the incident on Thursday as a "political stunt" and questioned the presence of the Derry councillors.
DUP councillor George Duddy said he had written to the chief executive of the council to have the matter raised at a meeting of the council tonight.
He has also demanded an apology from Mr Al-Halabi, and criticised him for "allowing himself to be used".
"This was a political stunt by Mr McShane," he said. "To me, it is an abuse of the Palestinian flag. Councillor McShane knew that he was going to offend the majority of the people in the new borough."
Four years ago, Mr McShane led an initiative which led to the former Moyle Council being twinned with Gaza.
Mr Duddy said he planned to raise this at the new council to discontinue the policy. Causeway Coast and Glens Council is expected to vote on its new flag policy on July 28.
The council is a merger of four previous councils - Limavady, Moyle, Coleraine and Ballymoney. Each previously had different policies over the flying of the flag.
A spokeswoman for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said no rules had been broken in the chamber.
"The issue of flags on council premises is currently the subject of an equality impact assessment," she said.
"The visit was privately arranged by Councillor McShane."