Flag calls amid debate over councils

Published Tuesday, 18 March 2014
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Politicians at Stormont have started two days of debate which will change the shape of local government in Northern Ireland.

Flag calls amid debate over councils
The union flag is now flown on designated days at Belfast City Hall. (© UTV)

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."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Rab in Belfast wrote (312 days ago):
Anna lo is a right we troublemaker get to the real issues woman!
John in CregganKroprcresume wrote (313 days ago):
@Sean in Tyrone, great idea, the ancient symbol of Ulster. Unionists happily adopted the Cross of St Patrice & The Red Hand so hard to see them take exception.
Just a thought in NI wrote (313 days ago):
Funny that now the flag is down, everyone is seeing the 'big picture' such as health etc. Whilst I agree there are more important things at stake, how come nobody was saying this before the flag came down? The real issues existed then too. Easy to argue for a status quo when you have achieved your goals and it suits you. Just a thought...
Joey in Belfast wrote (313 days ago):
Give Anna Lo the nobel peace prize along with Tom Elliott for coming up with this master stroke to help the peace process. They must think were all stupid.
Johno in Belfast wrote (313 days ago):
The MLA's should stuff their flags up their jersey and do a bit of work for both communities. No flags whatsoever and this should focus their minds on more important matters.
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