City council set for landmark flag vote

Published Monday, 26 November 2012
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Members of Belfast City Council are preparing to debate the divisive issue of flags, in a bid to decide the way forward at the city's most iconic building.

City council set for landmark flag vote
A decision will be taken on the flag issue next week. (© UTV)

UTV NEWS POLL

How do you think the flag issue should be resolved?
How do you think the flag issue should be resolved?



For over a century, the Union flag has flown at Belfast City Hall 365 days a year.

But that could change if the decision of a committee is ratified by the full council in a week's time.

Nationalist members of the council committee voted to remove the Union flag from the building, and also from the Ulster Hall and the council's Duncrue complex.

Sinn Féin Councillor Jim McVeigh said the removal of the flag would make city hall more welcoming for people of all backgrounds, but he said there is always room for compromise.

"We will be approaching the full council on Monday night with an open mind, but one thing is for sure - the current situation can't continue.

"It's going to have to change," he said. "We think the time is right for the council to adopt a policy which makes every citizen feel welcome and feel that this city hall belongs to them."

But unionist members refused to support the motion and DUP Councillor Lee Reynolds said they have promised they will oppose it all the way.

"On the night we will be proposing a rejection of designated days and we will be proposing a rejection of no flag," he explained.

"This council used to have flags flown all over the city. We already have the compromise. It was reduced to three buildings.

"On two of those buildings it was only designated days and on city hall it was 365 days. People seem to have forgotten about that compromise," Cllr Reynolds added.

The Alliance Party also sided with the unionists and said they will continue to block plans to permanently remove the Union flag - but they would support only flying it on designated days.

"In many people's eyes, this would be a big step, but it's a step that has to be taken," said Máire Hendron.

"I hope good sense will prevail. I would be very concerned about this city being shown in a negative light, and there is opportunity for that, and I do not want to see Belfast flashed around the world in another difficult situation," added the Alliance councillor.

While Belfast City Council was once unionist dominated, with the Ulster Covenant signed at City Hall - which was also the focal point of a mass protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement - nationalists now want to see more of a reflection of the new shared Northern Ireland.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin currently have 16 council seats, while the SDLP has eight, Alliance six, the UUP three and the PUP has two seats.

The decision now lies in the hands of the council, after it sought the views of the people in a public consultation over the summer.

The full council vote will be taken on Monday 3 December.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
152 Comments
V. Boyd in Co. Antrim wrote (633 days ago):
The MAJORITY of people in NORTHERN IRELAND consider themselves to be BRITISH and want the Union Flag to be flown 365 days a year at the BELFAST CITY HALL. Sinnn Fein and republicans say they want democracy. How is this democratic making this decision knowing that the MAJORITY of people in NORTHERN IRELAND want the flag to remain. BELFAST is the CAPITAL city of NORTHERN IRELAND and the Flag of our country should be flown there in accordance with the MAJORITY consenus. I like many others want to know,if Sinn Fein get their way with this issue, what next will be on their agenda to take away from the MAJORITY in NORTHERN IRELAND? If ALL Union Flags where taken down in NORTHERN IRELAND would Sinn Fein agree to all the Irish flags being taken down? I don't think so.
Gavin in Armagh wrote (634 days ago):
I for one would feel a lot less intimidated if the tricolour flew along side the union jack at not only Belfast city hall but in every town and city in the north. This is a shared society and we should all be represented equally. I have no doubt many people catholic or protestant, nationalist or unionist feel the same.
barbed wire in derry wrote (634 days ago):
The people have elected 24 nationalionlists and 21 uniontists so its up to the 6 cross community alliasnce menbers to decide and they are the common sence party. t hey have to think about the long term future when nationalists will rget and pass the magic 26. in lisburn and craigavon the unionists wont even elect a nationalist mayor using d'hont #like i nationalists do in councils west of the bann. t he census results will be out in a weeks time so it's up to the alliance party to change for the better or stay the same for short term gain
Carol in North Belfast wrote (636 days ago):
Why is this even open for discussion? No matter what capital city I am in I expect to see the flag of the country being flown. I would be amazed if I was in Dublin and the Irish flag was not being flown. We need to keep our flag flying every day at City Hall as it has been for the past 100 years.
gaz in belfast wrote (636 days ago):
northern ireland is part of britain so the union flag should kept in the city of belfast and every were in northern ireland the tricolour nothing to do with britain so you cant fly them together
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