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Flying the flag blows up into an Olympic storm

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Deputy Mayor, Arnold Hatch, hoisting the official Olympic flag at Craigavon Civic Centre on Sunday

Deputy Mayor, Arnold Hatch, hoisting the official Olympic flag at Craigavon Civic Centre on Sunday

Deputy Mayor, Arnold Hatch, hoisting the official Olympic flag at Craigavon Civic Centre on Sunday

A Sinn Fein councillor has written a letter of protest to the Equality Commission after the organisation refused to ban the flying of the 2012 British Olympics Flag that incorporated a Union Flag design.

The flag — with the red-white-and-blue British Lion logo — fluttered over Craigavon Civic Centre for four hours on Sunday afternoon, coinciding with the hand-over from the Beijing Olympics to London.

Councillor Johnny McGibbon claimed it went against council policy — and contravened legal advice from the borough solicitor.

He added: “A couple of years ago, the council decided that the Union Flag would fly over the Civic Centre only on specific days which were agreed among the parties.

“This flag is based on the Union Flag and therefore, in my view, contravenes the policy. When it came to a vote on the Olympics Flag, unionists supported it and nationalists voted against, and unionists won the day.”

In the meantime, the opinion of the commission was sought; it stated it would take no issue with the flying of the flag as it would be for a short time on a day when the Civic Centre was closed and that it related to the wider issue of the Olympics in which Northern Ireland would be participating.

Said Mr McGibbon: “There was also a choice of a plain Olympics Flag that did not incorporate the Union Flag and I proposed this one could be flown, but I was out-voted. The council had an opportunity to show leadership and to send out a signal to the nationalist population, but again it failed.”

Deputy Mayor Arnold Hatch (UUP) — who is also President of the NI Local Government Association — actually hoisted the flag on Sunday.

He said: “This is typical of Sinn Fein councillors. They are totally opposed to all things British, and when the commission — which usually finds in their favour — actually opposed them, they react like spoilt children.”

Belfast Telegraph