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New flag for Northern Ireland and bonfire enforcement among FICT report recommendations

But lack of agreement found

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The report has stated paramilitary flags should not be flown. [Stock pic]

The report has stated paramilitary flags should not be flown. [Stock pic]

A South Belfast Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force 1913 flag flies on a lamppost in the loyalist area of The Village in south Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A South Belfast Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force 1913 flag flies on a lamppost in the loyalist area of The Village in south Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

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The report has stated paramilitary flags should not be flown. [Stock pic]

A long-delayed report on flags and culture in Northern Ireland has recommended having a new civic flag or emblem for cities and council areas.

Professor Dominic Bryan, chair of the commission behind the report, confirmed a new flag for Northern Ireland, was among the 44 recommendations made.

The long-delayed report is to be published on Wednesday afternoon.

Profession Bryan also said recommendations were issued about the flying of flags on lampposts, with a code of practice and designated time periods considered.

On bonfires, Prof Bryan said the commission recommended changes to the law which would allow the pyres to take place “in a safe way”, but said enforcement was still important.

He also vented his frustrations on parading matters. Saying it was not part of his group’s remit but given how parading was intertwined with NI culture, they had to consider the matter given how parades could form party of various events but they would not “revisit the parades commission” which he had been involved with.

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He said considering shared spaces as neutral space was “wrong” and groups – particularly in Protestant community – did not feel they had a grasp on their rights and all should get training.

“The model in here is not about neutralising space ... none of this is about restricting identity, it is about creating a diversity which gives us a common strength.” 

He said: “What we have in here, is I hope a model for the way all these events should be taken and that it is important they are funded.”

He added: “We know there are things that divide us, we have got to provide a society that is cohesive enough to cope with that.”

The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) which was set up in 2016 and cost around £800,000, is due to publish its full findings on Wednesday afternoon, however none of the recommendations from the report are expected be implemented, as no action plan has been agreed.

Set up under the then first ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, the commission was tasked to find consensus on a number of contentious issues, but devolution collapsed before it could deliver its report.

Its findings were finally submitted to the Executive last July, but were not made public.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said to publish the report without a plan of action was “scandalous” while the SDLP’s Sinead McLaughlin described it as “disgraceful”.

Prof Bryan told the BBC Stephen Nolan Show he was very keen on the potential of a new “civic flag” for Northern Ireland but admitted there was no “overall agreement”.

“It is an option I am very keen on. I have always thought our peace process needed us to come up with symbols that represent us in a contemporary way and represented Northern Ireland in a contemporary way, represent the things we’ve been through,” he said.

“Some of our older symbols stop us doing that because they are loaded with emotion.

“Although people wouldn’t immediately take to it, having a civic symbol or a civic flag, either local councils having that or Northern Ireland having that.

“A civic flag is something that stands for us all in Northern Ireland, or a council flag so you could have a flag or symbol that stands for Belfast or Derry/Londonderry.”

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Dominic Bryan

Dominic Bryan

Dominic Bryan

Prof Bryan said the report has covered everything from education to language and the media.

On flags hanging from lampposts, he said the recommendations that were suggested did not get agreement from those involved with no “consensus”.

He added that they came up with a code of practice with ideas around set time periods flags can be displayed.

“The argument was whether you have a designated time period where you legally allow flags to be put up and they must come down over that period,” he said.

“There were also discussions about what sort of flags went up and how you manage that, so quite clearly the issue of paramilitary flags. There was consensus... paramilitary flags should not be flying on lampposts.”

On bonfires, there were recommendations around changes to legislation which would allow fires to be held legally.

“We have recommended there are some changes to legislation which enables bonfires to take place within a safe way as a positive construction of people’s identity,” he said.

“We have recommended enforcement, but it is important we get the legislation. We don’t want to push people who are having a reasonable commemoration or celebration into a position where they are breaking the law, when in the main they are doing something quite reasonable.”

The commission was due to report back within 18 months, although this was delayed by the collapse of the institutions and again by the pandemic.


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