ALLIANCE: WE WON’T SUPPORT UNION FLAG AT BELFAST CENOTAPH

The Union flag flies at half mast over Belfast City Hall on one of the designated days.

The Union flag flies at half mast over Belfast City Hall on one of the designated days.

THE row over the flying of the Union flag on the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall rumbles on.

The Alliance Party grouping in Belfast City Council says it will not supportĀ  proposal for the Union Flag to fly every day at the Cenotaph.

It says it took the decision, after the results of an equality assessment by Belfast City Council advised against it.

However, the DUP is angry at the Alliance U-turn saying it had previously told the party privately that it would support the propsal.

On Thursday, the Royal British Legion said it would not support the proposal, fearing it would “politicise” the veterans organisation.

The Group Leader of th Alliance Party on Belfast City Council said the Party had made its decision in line with its long standing designated days policy.

That was also the favoured outcome of the majority of respondents to the City Hall consultation -including the Royal British Legion.

Councillor Maire Hendron said: “Belfast City Hall’s equality impact assessment highlights clear equality risks in changing how the Union Flag flies at the Cenotaph.

“Alliance remains committed to our longstanding designated days policy and would like to see it rolled out across all local Councils, believing it is the only way to end on-going arguments over flag flying.

“However we are not alone in opposition to the changes proposed by the DUP.

“The Royal British Legion also highlighted its serious concerns during the consultation period, clearly stating in written form its apprehensions about involving the Cenotaph in a political debate.

“The Alliance Party is not against adding to the current number of designated days, but this must be done through the Westminster Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and not by individual councils on a vote-by-vote basis.

“The Alliance Party has already written to DCMS to request that the Anniversary of the Somme, 1 July, be added to the list of designated days either in Northern Ireland or across the United Kingdom as a whole.

“An inclusive commemoration, the Somme anniversary is reflected across our community as the exceptionally heavy losses suffered by the 36th Ulster Division, the 16th Irish Division and other Irish regiments are remembered.

“The on-going argument over flags at Belfast City Hall demonstrates the urgent need for Northern Ireland-wide regulation on the issue. The Executive must legislate for the flying of the Union Flag at each Council headquarters on designated days. We believe this policy provides the best opportunity to enhance community relations.

“This policy was set out in the Alliance Party shared future blueprint ‘For Everyone’and must be part of any shared future discussions as we move towards creating a Northern Ireland for everyone.

“In the absence of this policy Alliance cannot support amending the designated days policy and legislating on flags at local Council level. However we do respect DCMS as the correct channel to enact change and will continue to lobby them to ensure the Somme date is added to the current list of designated days.”

In a statement, the DUP said: “When we proceeded with the Cenotaph proposal it was in the expectation of success.

“This expectation was based on private and subsequently public comments by the Alliance party.

“They chose to change their position on this a number of weeks ago and prior to the responses to the equality screening.

“The DUP notes that there is a difference of opinion among veterans organisations on this proposal with some fully supportive but others not.

“It is the DUP’s intention that there is a positive outcome at the May Council meeting. It is pursuing all avenues with other parties to achieve this goal.

“The DUP will continue with its formal complaint to the Equality Commission about December’s flag decision.”

 

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