The DUP councillor who reignited the flag-flying debate in Lisburn said he did so after the controversy at Belfast City Hall brought the matter to a head.
James Tinsley’s motion was backed when the DUP and UUP united to kick-start a review of how often the Union flag flies on the city’s civic headquarters — currently a minimum of 15 days.
Alliance, Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors joined forces to oppose the move which was brought up at the end of the monthly meeting under ‘any other business’.
Mr Tinsley, whose motion on Tuesday night was seconded by Ulster Unionist Jim Dillon, said: “This has come to a head in recent days.
“Since 2001 we had the whole debate since our new Civic Headquarters opened and for six or seven years the flag has been flown there on about 15 to 17 days.
“There are designated days |and the mayor would also have discretion, say for the Diamond Jubilee or if the Queen was visiting. But we review all our policies from time to time and felt given the events of recent days it was time to have a look at this.”
The issue will be discussed initially by the council’s strategy policy committee before going back to a full council meeting in the New Year. But UUP MLA Basil McCrea — who had the party whip removed after backing the flying of the flag in Belfast on designated days — criticised the DUP move and attacked fellow UUP members who backed the bid to spread the flag row to Lisburn. Mr McCrea argued the Lisburn council’s current policy to fly the flag on designated days is unlikely to change.
“I am convinced that designated days is the right way to go. But not only will they not be able to change the policy, in my view, they should not even be attempting to do so,” he said.
“If they were serious about this they would have taken a straight vote on it rather than just go for a review. It was the easy option and takes the heat off them but it is unlikely to mean anything.”
He added: “They cannot go against the legal advice we obtained in 2006 which was that flying the flag 365 days a year is not sustainable..”
Alliance group leader on the council Brian Dornan said now was not the right time to be discussing the council’s flag policy in the current context of illegal protests, intimidation and |violence. His Alliance Party colleague Stephen Martin said: “The DUP and UUP previously supported the policy of designated days, so I am annoyed that they have brought up this issue because it appears that their party leaders were embarrassed by their Lisburn councillors’ support for designated days.”