Alliance calls for flag legislation

Published Tuesday, 29 January 2013
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The Alliance Party has said special arrangements must be put in place to deal with the ongoing flags crisis.

Alliance calls for flag legislation
Alliance Party members unveils their shared future document. (© Pacemaker)

It is calling for the Assembly to legislate on the flying of the Union flag on public buildings, as part of their blueprint for a shared future.

The Alliance Party walked away from Stormont's working group on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration last year.

Members claimed the issue was not being dealt with properly, and instead, the Alliance document set forward achievable goals for the next decade.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said recent loyalist flag protests and the violence that has broken out following some of the demonstrations highlights the segregation on Northern Ireland's streets.

"Continued divisions in our society impact upon people in many ways, including how we live, how we learn, how we work and how we play. These divisions bring significant human, social, economic and financial costs," he said.

The creation of a shared future would provide better opportunities for all and significantly assist the development of our economy.

David Ford

The Alliance Party said the flying of flags from lampposts can make people "very uncomfortable" and the document recommends state regulation should be introduced.

"This is not about the celebration of culture, this is about people marking out their territory and deters investment, deters tourism," said MLA Stephen Farry.

"It sets a very bad message about Northern Ireland. We do have to tackle the issue one way or another. We are supporting the issue of regulation. Let's have a talk about exactly how we do that."

Alliance proposals call on the Executive to agree to fly the Union flag from public and civic buildings on designated days.

The blueprint also recommends one fifth of peace walls should be removed within the next ten years and mixed housing should be considered the norm by 2025.

Minister Farry said peace walls were a response to fear and acknowledged that getting rid of them would not happen overnight.

We could talk about a complete ban on flags but that would prevent people from celebrating their culture, so it's much better that we recognise that we have a shared space.

Stephen Farry

"We have to have a proper dialogue between people and they have to have a proper understanding that to take the leap of faith to trust in each other and whenever things do go wrong, that the authorities will intervene to address those who are seeking to go back and to create divisions that we are trying to heal," he explained.

The strategy also said it hopes to see at least one in every five children educated in an integrated school by 2020 and a cross-party talks process to reach agreed arrangements for dealing with the past.

Jonathan Bell of the DUP responded to the Alliance by saying there is an "unmistakable irony" to their proposals.

"Were they truly serious about delivering their stated aims then they would not have walked away from the cross-party body tasked with delivering on this," the Junior Minister said.

"The truth of course perhaps is that Alliance prefers talking about a shared future much more than working with others to actually achieve one.

"Whilst it is obviously useful to hear as many contributions to the wider debate it would have been more productive Alliance had stuck the course and continued to work with other political parties right across the spectrum in Northern Ireland.

"Consensus politics and not boycotts or solo-runs from political parties who cannot demand their own way will be how a shared future is won in Northern Ireland. In this context Alliance are long on rhetoric but very short on delivery."

Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane said: "There are complex issues out there including integrated education, interfaces, parades, dealing with the past, identity and symbols to name a few.

"We need to reach consensus on these issues to move forward.

"As we have seen from recent events there is the need for a full debate about what we mean by equality, respect, parity of esteem or mutual understanding. Sinn Féin is up for this discussion, the question is are the other parties?"

© UTV News
Comments Comments
51 Comments
in Internet wrote (593 days ago):
Lucylou - If you look on the left side of your keyboard you will see the CAPS LOCK button! Some people are just so rude...
lucylou in belfast wrote (594 days ago):
REALISTIC IN PLANET EARTH. I SO VERY MUCH AGREE WITH YOU . PEOPLE VOTED IN AS REPRESENTATIVES SHOULD BE CONCENTRATING ON THE THINGS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO OUR AND OUR CHILDREN,S EVERY DAY LIVES.HEALTH EDUCATION EMPLOYMENT HOUSING INTEGRATION ETC . ALAS WHEN THEY ARE VOTED IN BY HARDLINERS BECAUSE THEY ARE TOLD WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR THEN THEY HAVE TO PANDER TO ALL THESE PEOPLE OR LOSE THEIR SEATS.HENCE WHY IN MY OPINION THESE REPRESENTATIVES CAN AT TIMES GIVE OUT THE STRONGEST DIVISIVE MESSAGE OF ALL. I WILL BE VOTING ALLIANCE ALSO.
realistic in planet earth wrote (595 days ago):
I'll be voting Alliance- they're the only party talking about compromise AND the things that we all know need addressed and changed. And that is real life- compromise and facing up to what needs done, I want my kids to have a better life than we have had........
robbie in Leicester wrote (595 days ago):
So James by your extrapolation everyone in England is therefore English? Wise up!!
steven in lisburn wrote (595 days ago):
At the next election I will vote Alliance for the first time as they are the only party to have had any respect for both traditions in this country.William you must remember if the alliance party had obstained on the issue the union flag would not fly at all and if you insist that its only a piece of cloth and doesnt offend anyone why not fly a tricolour along with it.Maybe we should also fly Polish Chinese and those of any other country who have arrived here searching for a better quality of life.
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BRIAN ROWAN
The voice above the crowd didn't come from within that increasingly tense and angry political arena.
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