Flag calls amid debate over councils

Flag calls amid debate over councils

Politicians at Stormont have started two days of debate which will change the shape of local government in Northern Ireland.

It comes ahead of a vote on 22 May - the same day as the European elections - when the people of NI will elect 11 new 'super councils' to replace the current 26.As well as covering larger areas, the new councils will also have new names and will have much more responsibility, including over local planning. They will go into shadow form for a year before talking over a year later, bringing an entirely different look to local government.One of the issues which has returned to the fore amid this debate is flags, with the UUP and Alliance both tabling amendments to the Local Government Bill.Alliance MLA Anna Lo has proposed allowing the Union Flag to be flown on all council headquarters on designated days.It comes after the Ulster Unionist Party tabled an amendment asking for the bill to be changed to include the flag being flown at Belfast City Hall all year long.Currently the flag only flies on designated days on the historic building, following a vote by Belfast's city councillors in December 2012.The controversial change to City Hall's flag-flying policy led to months of widespread protests across Northern Ireland, many of which were followed by rioting.UTV's Political Editor Ken Reid said: "Once again the flags issue has appeared and tomorrow, when they pick up the debate again, there is an Ulster Unionist amendment calling for the Union flag to be flown 365 days a year at City Hall and an Alliance amendment calling for councils to fly the flag on designated days."I have to say, there has already been petitions of concern moved and that means there will be a cross-community vote, so the chances of any of that happening are really nil."


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