Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council staff will be allowed to wear Easter lily

The Easter lily / Credit: Creative Commons
The Easter lily / Credit: Creative Commons

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Councillors in Londonderry have voted to allow staff members to wear the Easter lily.

The decision by members of Derry City and Strabane District Council on Tuesday evening after a meeting of its governance committee.

It will now be put in front of a full council meeting where it is expected to be ratified.

The issue was first put onto the council's agenda in April 2016, when independent republican councillor Paul Gallagher put forward a motion to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising calling for its wearing to be allowed.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, Mr Gallagher said the proposal was about creating a "shared" space for staff.

"There is a world of difference between a neutral space and a shared space, and we are trying to create a shared space where things can be seen. Staff are currently allowed to wear the Poppy if they so choose, so this is about trying to bring a balance," he said.

Mr Gallagher said he was disappointed members of the DUP and UUP chose not to support the motion, as they had previously been receptive to it during meetings of the working group.

Once the motion is ratified staff will be allowed to wear the Easter lily for a one-week period in advance of Easter Sunday, in line with the one-week period staff members can wear the Poppy for around the period of Remembrance Sunday.

Staff in the council traditionally had the option to wear the Poppy if they chose.

A working group was set up following the original motion in April 2016 and has held a number of meetings in the interim, with representatives from the Equality Commission and Trade Union Officials contributing.

A number of issues around the displaying of emblems in the workplace have been highlighted in a council report.

In the report, the Equality Commission noted there was not a strict legal framework for emblems, but that it should consider how it is creating a "good harmonious workplace".

The report also considers how political emblems could impact on recruitment, especially from the under-represented Protestant community, and the implication for how it could impact on council workers during interactions with the public.

The republican symbol is based on the lily flower and worn around Easter time to commemorate those killed in the 1916 Rising and subsequently conflicts.

The Easter lily has previously proven controversial during discussion on its wearing in other public spaces in Northern Ireland.

In 2017, Sinn Feiin called for Belfast council workers to be allowed to wear the symbol, and for it to be treated with similar status to the Poppy.

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