Stormont has been accused of side-stepping moves to restore a portrait of the Queen to mark the Diamond Jubilee while preparing to debate the prospect of displaying an Irish tricolour.
A row over the possibility of the tricolour being given an increased profile intensified after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the issue is to be debated by the body responsible for running Parliament Buildings, the Assembly Commission.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister insisted an attempt to bring back an official portrait of the Queen had been effectively “buried”.
“The fact that the commission is set to debate the flying of the tricolour, but has done nothing in the Jubilee year to restore its portrait of Her Majesty, is indicative of the toxic power of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Stormont,” he said.
The DUP’s commission member, Peter Weir, however argued:
“The commission will discuss a ‘good relations strategy’. It is not a meeting about the tricolour. If someone raises the issue of the tricolour during that meeting I will oppose them.
“Jim may not have realised, but the DUP has already raised the need for greater recognition of Her Majesty in the building.”
Judith Cochrane, the Alliance Party’s representative on the commission, said: “Instead of manufacturing a sectarian squabble, we should be looking at what goes on inside Stormont instead of a flag on top of the building.”
But she also made clear her party fully backs the current policy allowing for only the Union flag being flown at Stormont on the present specified days.
But Sinn Fein’s commission member Barry McElduff argued: “Institutional reflection of your identify is important and people are asking why it is necessary to fly the British flag 12 days a year.
“It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere for visitors and staff.”