Belfast council flag motion would 'adversely impact unionists', legal advice states
Belfast City Council's bid to removal all unauthorised banners and flags would have a disproportionate adverse impact on unionists, internal legal advice has said.
The council sought to take legal action against the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to remove unapproved banners and paramilitary flags from its property, such as lampposts.
However, councillors last week decided to undertake a public consultation on the matter.
The original motion, from Sinn Fein, sought for the council to take legal action against the Stormont department to force it to remove all paramilitary flags and all unauthorised banners erected in the absence of agreed community protocols.
The Sinn Fein motion came about after criticism banners across Northern Ireland support Soldier F, a former paratrooper who is standing trial for murder at Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972,
Legal advice provided to councillors found that taking legal action to remove paramilitary flags would not have an adverse impact but that effort to remove all banners would adversely and disproportionately impact the Protest Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community, the Irish News reports.
The advice said the motion was wide enough to include flags, and that putting up public banners and flags is mainly linked to the PUL community.
Last week, councillors on the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed to a consultation on the presence of flags and banners in the city. The decision is to be ratified at the next full council meeting in October.
The DUP said the consultation was "politically contrived"
DUP councillor David Graham said: "No one wants to see flags flying in tatters."
"We opposed this consultation because it has been politically contrived.
"There has been clear legal advice to the council that the PUL community would be unfairly impacted due to the cultural and historical traditions within that community."
Belfast Telegraph Digital