Belfast Telegraph

Home News Politics

Vote finally due on flying of Union flag at Stormont

By Rebecca Black

The highly-divisive issue of how often the Union flag should be flown at Stormont could be back on the political agenda in the run-up to the general election.

TUV leader Jim Allister has accused the Executive parties of deliberately putting off a key vote on the long-running issue that has seen unionists and nationalists at loggerheads.

In December 2012 Belfast City Council voted to restrict the flying of the Union flag at City Hall to designated days, sparking unionist anger.

Loyalists took to the streets in protest, blocking off city and town centres.

These later escalated into major riots, bombings, arson and attacks on police and politicians.

Although the same policy had been in operation at Stormont since 2002, unionists demanded that it must be reviewed.

The Assembly Commission, which is responsible for Parliament Buildings, agreed to discuss its flag-flying policy in February 2013.

As part of a long, drawn-out process, a 14-week equality impact assessment consultation is currently taking place. But that is due to end on February 2 - and the TUV believes a vote cannot be put off any longer.

The Equality Assessment contains six options:

Maintaining the current policy of flying the Union flag 15 days a year

Increasing or decreasing this number of days.

Flying the Union flag all year round.

Stop flying the flag.

Flying the Irish tricolour alongside the Union flag.

Flying a neutral civic flag.

The final decision will be made by the Assembly Commission, a body comprised of one MLA from each of the five biggest political parties and chaired by the Assembly Speaker, Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin.

In June last year TUV leader Mr Allister hit out at the prospect of a long wait for an agreed policy and yesterday his party once more lashed out at how long the process is taking.

"Almost two years ago (March 2013) TUV responded to a consultation by the Assembly Commission on this issue.

"TUV believes that this change needs to take place as soon as possible.

"We are opposed to any lengthy period of consultation designed merely to long-finger the issue.

"Given that we find ourselves writing this response to yet another consultation two years later we believe that our fears about the parties represented on the commission dragging their heels on this issue have been manifest."

Background

The decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag is flown from Belfast City Hall to designated days sparked fury in December 2012.

Currently 10 councils fly the flag all-year round. Craigavon Council recently voted to move from flying it only on designated days to all-year round. It is understood Ballymoney Council may also vote shortly for 365 days.

Read more:

Northern Ireland politics returning to 'divide and conquer' ahead of 2015 election 

General Election 2015: Curse of trophy politics looms large as parties try to motivate tribal voters  

Unionist bid to scrap John O'Dowd's Irish-medium school fails 

General Election 2015: David Cameron queries absence of Northern Ireland parties from TV debates 

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph