Belfast Telegraph

Alliance and Greens clash over council move to take down flags

A number of loyalist flags on display in Belfast
A number of loyalist flags on display in Belfast
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Alliance has been accused of "throwing their toys out of the pram" after Green Party councillors in Belfast refused to back an amendment seeking the removal of "all flags" from lampposts.

Clare Bailey MLA has accused Alliance of a "deliberate attempt to cause confusion and misconstrue" the Green Party's position after its four councillors refused to support an "unworkable and populist" amendment.

"Clearly this has caused Alliance to start throwing their toys out of the pram and take to social media to mislead people on our policy position," she said.

It comes after Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw posted a tweet after Belfast City Council passed a motion to take action to force the Department for Infrastructure to remove paramilitary emblems from lampposts across the city.

In it, she expressed disappointment that "Unionists and Greens (bizarrely) combined" to stop an amendment which would have required all flags to be removed.

Instead, it requires all paramilitary flags and banners to be removed unless DfI gives permission "with protocols that protect citizens".

DUP councillor George Dorrian accused both Sinn Fein and Alliance of point scoring as he called for genuine engagement over the controversial issue.

"We don't support flag flying for intimidation purposes and totally condemn that activity, but flags are part of a tradition that goes back many years," he said. "There needs to be a more constructive approach because this one isn't based in reality."

The motion calling for legal action against DfI if it failed to act was proposed by Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie and was backed by 34 councillors.

Mr Dorrian, who was one of 18 unionists to oppose it, described Mrs Bradshaw's reaction on social media as "disappointing".

"It's not very constructive that Alliance has chosen to snipe at the work of others and attack the Greens," he said.

"This universal approach by Sinn Fein and Alliance to take down all flags simply isn't going to work, but this isn't really about flags."

Mr Dorrian also questioned the feasibility of asking a contractor or government department to take down every paramilitary flag in Belfast.

Last night, Ms Bradshaw said it is essential parties "speak with one voice" and recognise that "even national flags are abused as a means of exerting paramilitary control" over ordinary people.

A spokesperson for DfI said it must consider community tensions and the safety of staff as it considers the move.

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