Belfast Telegraph

Claim flags on bonfires could be banned under new government proposals

The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition could be set to introduce new restrictions on bonfires and flying the Union flag in Northern Ireland according to a leaked government report, it has been claimed.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has claimed he has seen the report which includes new measures to try and tackle Northern Ireland's cultural and identity issues.

The commission was set up in 2016 as part of the Stormont House Agreement and includes members nominated by political parties and others including academics, Orange Order representatives and business leaders.

Mr Bryson said none of the unionists on the commission had agreed to the draft.

Writing on the Unionist Voices blog he claimed the proposals include the prohibition of certain materials including flags on bonfires.

He said the draft documents recommended "That the Northern Ireland Executive would agree to encourage statutory intervention in any bonfires that (a) risk life or property (b) gives rise to an offence of hate crime; or (c) encourages support for proscribed organisations; or (d) Gives rise to anti-social behaviour".

He also claimed that a new draft report says Sinn Fein has demanded the tricolour must be flown with the Union Flag on public buildings or no flags should be flown at all.

"It can be revealed that Sinn Fein representatives have demanded that the commission recommends that the Irish flag must be flown in parity with the Union flag on public buildings, or failing this that no flags should fly at all," he wrote.

"Sinn Fein have said they will not sign up to any document that recommends the flying of the union flag alone, for any period of time, on any public buildings."

Responding to this claim, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Our policy, on flags on public buildings is that of equality or neutrality ie for to fly both national flags or no flag to be flown at all in line with the concept of parity of esteem and recognition, as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement of both main identities, Irish, British or both."

Mr Bryson claimed that the commission was planning to introduce new legislation surrounding bonfires which would require an application process.

Mr Bryson, quoting from the document, said: "Draft 2 states the following on this 'A change in legislation would enable land owners to permit a bonfire on their land for such an occasion they would therefore be in a position to the set the criteria for such'.

"This proposal would effectively create a licensing scheme by the back door whereby bonfire builders would have to apply for permission, and land owners would set the criteria for how the bonfire should run."

However he said that no final agreement on the issues had been reached.   

"It is important to note that unionists on the commission have not signed up to any final agreement and the current recommendations are being driven strongly by Sinn Fein, the Alliance party and academics," he wrote.

A spokesperson for The Commission said: “The work of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition is ongoing. The report is not yet completed and no recommendations have been agreed.”

The Alliance Party said they would not be responding to Mr Bryson's comments, while Sinn Fein has yet to reply after being contacted by The Belfast Telegraph.

The claims come as Mid-Ulster council look set to introduce plans meaning that anyone wishing to hold a bonfire in the council district will have to undergo an application process under new plans to regulate bonfires in the area.

As part of the plans anyone wishing to hold a bonfire in the area would have to prove the event can be run safely and that no toxic materials or political emblems will be burned on the bonfire.

A council spokesperson said it would then grant permission for the bonfire if they were satisfied all conditions were met.

 

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