Belfast Telegraph

From Covenant to the Blitz, mementos from our turbulent past get new home in City Hall

But exhibition under fire for ignoring the Troubles

By Rebecca Black

Every flag in Belfast City Hall - except one - is to be moved into a new museum in the East Wing.

The council is to announce the new exhibition space this morning - but has already been criticised for ignoring the Troubles.

Last night, the media and public were excluded from the council chamber while the matter was discussed.

However, the Belfast Telegraph understands that the failure of councillors to tackle the Troubles in the exhibition was blasted by one councillor as "a massive hole".

The councillor is understood to have told council that the "cop-out" will deter visitors who are understood to be most interested in the Troubles.

Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie, along with Sinn Fein and the PUP, have had to leave their offices to make room for the 10,000 sq ft permanent exhibition.

The wooden table on which the Ulster Covenant was signed, a UDR memorial window, a flag from HMS Pathfinder, a framed Royal Inniskillings flag and plaque are among the items which will be moved to the East Wing.

A wartime Civil Defence flag above a plaque bearing the names of those who lost their lives during the 1941 Belfast blitz will be the only flag to remain in the Rotunda, where the Bloody Friday memorial will also stay.

The move follows three years of negotiations within the Memorabilia Working Group.

It was set up after an Equality Impact Assessment report in November 2012 found an "accumulation of material that naturally reflects the predominantly white, male, Protestant and unionist history of the City Hall".

The council's decision in December 2012 to fly the Union flag on the outside of City Hall only on designated days instead of all year sparked protests and riots.

It was warned that if the project failed to live up to expectations, the council would "have to think again", a source said.

Belfast City Hall attracts almost 70,000 visitors a year.

Other ideas agreed by the Memorabilia Working Group include an engraved tile to mark the spot where Edward Carson signed the Ulster Covenant, historical Young Citizen Volunteers flags being displayed on July 1 and Armistice Day as well as Remembrance Sunday.

There is also a plan to increase representation of ethnic minority communities, with information about the first Jewish Lord Mayor Otto Jaffa, different languages on the welcome wall and 10 diverse images in the welcome corridor.

Belfast Telegraph

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