Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein hit out at DUP threat to block council flying Pride flag

By Brett Campbell

A Sinn Fein councillor has slammed the DUP after the party confirmed it is considering a move to block the Pride flag from being erected on civic buildings in Co Armagh.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council was praised last week after it passed a historic motion which will see the rainbow flag raised on three public buildings for the first time.

But the DUP has threatened to use the 'call in' process to block the significant gesture towards the LGBT+ community.

Sinn Fein councillor Liam Mackle, who seconded the motion introduced by his party colleague Darren McNally, warned that such a move would have an adverse impact.

"At the moment it's just talk," he said.

"They have until 10am on Tuesday and if they go ahead then the flag will not be flown - even though their argument is totally without merit."

If the mechanism is triggered it will mean legal advice must be sought through the chief executive's office and discussed at the next council meeting on August 20.

"It simply means the flag will not fly regardless of the outcome," Mr Mackle said.

"I would advise the party against doing it because it will only be interpreted as a blatant attack on all members of the LGBT community.

"It will also make a complete nonsense of Arlene Foster's outreach work."

Rainbow Project policy officer Gavin Boyd previously hailed the motion, which was narrowly passed at a full council meeting on Monday, as a major milestone.

He welcomed the move as "one of the most phenomenal things I've heard taking place to mark Pride this year" and said visibility is key to those in the LGBT+ community who face isolation or difficulties.

However, in a statement the DUP said it "outrightly condemns any act of hate or violence against any member of the community" but branded the motion to fly the flag as divisive.

The party expressed concerns that it was submitted "very late in the day", which it said could have "far-reaching" implications. "Due process hasn't been followed, no call for an equality impact assessment as is custom and practice when displaying flags and emblems, and we are going against our policies and procedures," it said.

"We as a party fear that this result will open the floodgates for all groups to suggest flying all types of flags from civic buildings."

The DUP said it believes that official local authority flagpoles should only be used to fly the nation's flag or the armed forces flag and vowed to object "in the strongest possible terms" to any other flag being flown.

"We will on this occasion have to consider taking legal advice and utilising the call in process," it said.

The motion was backed by Sinn Fein and the SDLP but the DUP and Independent Unionist Davy Jones voted against it. The Ulster Unionist Party did not vote.

The council will be the only local authority to fly the rainbow flag, although Belfast City Hall will be lit up in rainbow colours next Saturday to coincide with the Pride parade.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said there is "clearly more to be done for the cause of full equality" and branded the DUP threat as a distraction and "further evidence of their continued denial of rights enjoyed by citizens elsewhere on this island and in Britain".

Belfast Telegraph

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