Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Time Northern Ireland had its own flag, says Labour peer - do you agree?

Jamie Bryson: 'The flag is the union flag and that should never change'

By Jonny Bell

Prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson has slammed suggestions that Northern Ireland should have its own flag as "a load of nonsense".

It comes after a member of the House of Lords made the suggestion in a BBC documentary.

Labour peer Lord West of Spithead each constituent part of the UK should be represented by its own flag.

"I realise this stirs very deep feelings," he said.

"But I think it is unfortunate that Northern Ireland does not have a recognised flag.

"A lot of people are feeling this now. It is interesting a lot of towns are going to the flag institute saying they want to have their own flags.

"The interest is there.

"So I think it is unfortunate [Northern Ireland does not have one],  but I do understand the difficulties it has."

Jamie Bryson, who was a prominent figure in the loyalist flag protests, described the call as a "load of nonsense" from the Labour party.

He said: "Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK, the flag is the union flag and that should never change.

"This is just an attempt to undermine the democratic will of the people in relation to Brexit and to try and remove the Union flag.

"Northern Ireland politics is contentious so it would be difficult to come up with a flag. But this is just an attempt to dilute Britishness and to stir up some nationalist feeling.

"There is nothing to be gained and it is a proposal which isn't worth thinking about."

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Northern Ireland has not had its own flag since 1972.

The flag of the Government of Northern Ireland was officially named The Ulster Banner and was used from 1953 to 1972.

Based on the flag of England and the flag of the province of Ulster, it had the Red Hand of Ulster in a white star – points of the star represented the six counties of Northern Ireland.

But when the Northern Ireland Government was dissolved under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the flag ceased to carry any official status. Also known as the 'Red Hand of Ulster' or the 'Ulster Flag', it is still used by some unionists and sporting organisations. It is the officially recognised flag for the Northern Ireland international football team.

The only official flag to be flown is the Union flag, which is an amalgamation of the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick representing England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1954 the Northern Ireland Parliament passed the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act. This Act gave police the power to remove or order to remove any emblem that could lead to a breach of the peace – but it was repealed in 1987.

The issue was recognised in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which noted the "sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division".

The most recent legislation on the contentious subject was the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, which gave the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland power over the regulation of flags at Government buildings and on designated days.

The issue of flags came to the fore once again in light of the 2012 flag protests when Belfast City Council passed a motion to only fly the Union flag from city hall on designated days.

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