Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council bans Irish tricolour from St Patrick's celebrations - but unionists still won't go, says councillor

By Jonathan Bell

A Northern Ireland council has banned the flying of flags - including the Irish Tricolour - from a town's St Patrick's day celebrations.

But the move doesn't go far enough to appeal to the unionist community, one councillor has said.

Derry City & Strabane District Council said it made the decision because it wanted the event to be cross-community and family focused and as such there would be no flags and emblems.

The council said that as it was the first time it had run the event in Strabane, it had made some changes including having a shorter parade route. It is providing £30,000 in funding.

However, Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey said the gesture would have little appeal to those from the Protestant, unionist and loyalist communities.

Mr Hussey said it was "counter-productive" that the parade was also the climax of the town's Irish language festival and that there were proposals for a parallel event to run alongside the council-run parade.

He suggested the other event could have flags while the main parade would not but the two could "morph together".

"So there is no attempt from the republican community to work on inclusively," said Councillor Hussey who is deputy chair of the council committee which approved the move.

"At the end of the day the council is trying to make it a celebration which is inclusive.

"It is always frustrating that the only flag you don't see at the parade is that of St Patrick when there is symbolism and heritage that relates to us all."

Councillor Hussey said the Irish language festival events around the parade would not make it conducive to people from the unionist community from attending.

"It certainly hasn't changed in a way that would make me go with the wife and wains," added Mr Hussey who admitted he had never been before.

Sinn Fein councillors could not be reached, however, the party has been asked for comment.

A spokesman for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that it was "delighted to support the extension of the St Patrick’s Day Carnival" festivities in Strabane.

"In keeping with the paper approved by the council's business and culture committee the event will be a cross-community cultural celebration with a strong family-friendly focus," he said.

"Therefore flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone. Council is committed to promoting inclusion and integration within and between communities in all its activities, events and programmes.

"Council is working closely with all the groups involved to ensure the cross-community principles of the event are reflected in the parade."

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