Council may face legal action over flag

Published Friday, 11 January 2013
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The DUP has submitted a formal complaint to Belfast City Council over the removal of the Union flag, which could lead to legal action being taken.

Council may face legal action over flag
The flag has been removed from City Hall. (© Pacemaker)

Councillor John Hussey said the decision to only fly the flag on designated days is in breach of BCC's equality scheme.

He said the complaint is the first step towards possible legal action.

"We believe that both in its processes and in its decision over the removal of the Union flag Belfast City Council made multiple breaches of its published and legally required equality scheme," said Mr Hussey, who is secretary of the DUP group on the council.

"The DUP is committed to pursuing all political avenues to overturning the disastrous decision by Sinn Féin, SDLP and the Alliance party and to repairing the harm to good relations and a shared future it has caused.

"As with the launch of the Unionist Forum, through this initiative my party wishes to demonstrate that there are political alternatives to protests and most especially to violence."

This is the first step towards a formal complaint to the Equality Commission and ultimately possible legal action

John Hussey

The change to the flag policy was endorsed by nationalists and the cross-community Alliance Party at the start of December, and opposed by unionists.

Since then a number of loyalist protests have been held across Northern Ireland and many have been followed by violence, including six nights of rioting in east Belfast this month.

Over 65 police officers have been injured during the trouble.

The Alliance Party, which controls the balance of power on Belfast Council, has said the designated days option was in line with the recommendation from the Equality Commission as an approach which would promote good relations between both sides.

Meanwhile, a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "The decision to introduce the policy of flying the Union flag at City Hall was taken democratically by elected members at the monthly meeting of Belfast City Council on 3 December.

"The council has taken legal advice throughout this process and the decision is in keeping with the outcome of the equality impact assessment that was undertaken in line with the advice of the Equality Commission.

"The designated days agreed are in keeping with those notified by the UK Government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport."

Councillors in Craigavon have voted to review their flag policy, which could lead to the Union flag being displayed all year round rather than the current designated days.

Meanwhile on Limavady council, nationalists defeated a unionist motion to start flying the flag there on designated days.

Another series of loyalist flag protests - dubbed Operation Standstill - took place across NI on Friday night.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
45 Comments
Realist in England wrote (679 days ago):
John - I don't see where you are coming from here. Derry did vote for that but were not allowed to officially change the name or something. It still says Derry (in aice leis an leagan Gaeilge, ar ndóigh) on council buildings. Nationalists have already done that. To make a comparison, if Larne was officially called Romelarne in English to signify a historical link to some Pope, many from the PUL community there would want to change that. Likewise, the nationalist majority on Derry Council dropped the unionist prefix with which they felt zero affinity. Why should you conflate the nationalist council in Derry removing some unwelcome vestige of unionism with the flag issue. Belfast's nationalist majority should be allowed to do what best suits its people without worrying about independent events in Derry, Dublin, London or anywhere else. Especially given the recent violence, it would be sending out all the wrong messages if the flag was ever to return 365 days a year. If loyalists were allowed to force a change in a democratic decision, militant republicans would certainly take that as encouragement to continue with their campaign. It would be saying that violence pays and that would be the stupidest thing imaginable in a region with our history.
stormer in tyrone wrote (680 days ago):
@ michael - that's the point the Unionist/Ptotestants have had it their own way too long. They don't like democracy, they don't like the law and they don't like anyone who is not identical to them in their narrow minded approach to everything. Sad way to live your life!
Stephen in Belfast, UK wrote (680 days ago):
How come Nationalists held illegal parades, protests and roadblacks against true democracy at Stormont in 1968/69 and that was ok, yet when Loyalists do it regarding Belfast CC in 2012/13 suddenly it's disgraceful and should be stopped immediately. Hypocrisy, anyone?
anon in belfast wrote (680 days ago):
its funny how media depicts the unionists as the bad apple and im amazed how many people think this is just a flag issue when its so much more like naming parks after ira men trying to get a shrine to hunger strikers in the maze having parades rerouted while ira bands hold ilegal marches i dont agree with the riots but i give my full support on peaceful protests as that is our democratic right and none has the power or right to take that away from anyone in this country regardless of religion
Nigel.M in Dublin wrote (681 days ago):
A 6 x 4 piece of cloth that cost less than a pound to produce. you do the math. Im a protestant living in Dublin, and im proud of my flag and my heritage, But at the moment im actually ashamed to tell people im from Belfast. Never mind bbc and sky news, we're being beemed across the world as small minded, ignorant bigots. Well done lads, you should feel very proud.....
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