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Alliance says nothing to celebrate after row over Northern Ireland council hoisting Brexit flag

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DUP councils in bid to make the UK's separation from the EU.

DUP councils in bid to make the UK's separation from the EU.

PA Archive/PA Images

DUP councils in bid to make the UK's separation from the EU.

A decision to fly the Union Flag in Lisburn to mark ‘Brexit Day’ has sparked a row between councillors.

A joint statement of protest has been issued by Green, SDLP, Alliance and Sinn Fein representatives on Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, criticising DUP Mayor Alan Givan for his role in the decision to fly the flag.

They said as his position is meant to be "non-political" he should reconsider. One councillor said there was nothing to celebrate in the UK's departure from the EU on Friday.

The move comes after a vote to light the council building blue to mark the occasion was defeated.

The four non-unionist parties on council, who make up 17 of the 40 elected councillors said: “The DUP attempted to have the council light the Civic Centre in blue to mark the UK leaving the European Union.

"This was defeated, but following a suggestion by the UUP’s Alderman Jim Dillon that the Union Flag should be flown, The mayor agreed to use his prerogative to do so without putting the matter to a vote."

Their statement continued: "Our parties ask that the mayor reflect on his decision to mark the UK’s departure from the European Union by flying the Union Flag, given the new co-operative approach being adopted at Stormont.

“We respect the right of those who wish to celebrate this moment in history but to give it the stamp of civic approval won’t be done in our names or on behalf of those we represent.”

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Brexit 50p coin (HM Treasury/PA)

Brexit 50p coin (HM Treasury/PA)

PA Media

Brexit 50p coin (HM Treasury/PA)

At Tuesday's meeting of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, a DUP member requested that the Lagan Valley Island centre be lit up on January 31 to celebrate the UK leaving the EU.

Alliance Councillor Sorcha Eastwood, who spoke against the request, said it was disappointing that the building be politicised and that the lighting of the building was meant to be for community or charitable causes.

Councillor Eastwood said: “We don’t think it’s right that the building be used to make political points and Alliance is opposed to using the building for this purpose.

“January 31 isn’t a date for celebration, as Northern Ireland is leaving the biggest trading bloc in the world, and this will have negative consequences in both economic and social terms.

Sorcha Eastwood

“Whilst we recognise that we are leaving, what we need to focus on now is scrutinising and analysing the detail that will come from the future relationship negotiations and as a party we will do that at Westminster and the Assembly and we will continue to prioritise protecting NI, people’s jobs and livelihoods.

“Alliance will continue to listen and work with business, farmers and the community to protect our best interests.”

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact Mr Givan for a response, but a spokesperson for the council said the Mayor was within his rights to permit the flag to fly.

“The council’s provisions state that the Union flag is flown at the civic offices on the designated days in accordance with the Northern Ireland government guidelines,” said the council.

“Along with July 1 and July 12, there is provision to fly the appropriate flag on other exceptional occasions deemed suitable by the Mayor.”

Belfast Telegraph