Stormont flag meeting is postponed

Stormont The union flag currently flies for 15 days over Parliament Buildings at Stormont

Related Stories

A meeting planned for Tuesday to discuss the flying of the union flag over Stormont has not proceeded.

The Alliance party had said they would not be attending the Assembly Commission meeting.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP did not attend either.

The DUP was to propose a process of consultation on extending the number of days the union flag is flown.

The idea was due to be put forward by the DUP's Peter Weir on Tuesday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Assembly said the meeting did not proceed as a "quorum was not achieved".

They said arrangements would be made to reschedule the meeting.

On Tuesday morning, the Alliance party leader David Ford questioned whether the meeting of the Assembly Commission, the cross-party group that manages Parliament Buildings, should go ahead in what he said was a "charged atmosphere".

Later on Tuesday, Alliance said it would not be attending the meeting "in light of the ongoing assault on democracy and the rule of law and last night's attempted murder of a police officer".

"We feel it is impossible to discuss the issue of flags at this time and we won't do so until this violence stops," they said.

"This proposal is destabilising at this critical time and will not do anything to calm tensions on the streets.

"We have therefore called on the Speaker to postpone this meeting. No party should be seeking to pursue this issue in the current climate."

The union flag currently flies over the assembly building for 15 days a year.

On 3 December, a decision was made by Belfast City Council to fly the union flag at city hall only on certain days.

The move led to loyalist protests, many of which have escalated into violence across Northern Ireland over the past week.

It is thought any new process could take several months to decide if dates like Ulster Day, the anniversary of the Covenant, or Remembrance Sunday should be added to the list of days when the union flag flies at Stormont.

If the proposal does not command a consensus, the commission members can vote in accordance with their party strengths.

No cross-community vote is required. It is thought the unionist commission representatives may be able to cast 55 votes, while nationalists and others command 52 votes.

That arithmetic discounts the vote of the speaker Willie Hay, but assumes the TUV, UKIP and the sole independent unionist will lend their vote to the main unionist parties.

Equality impact

As things stand, unlike Belfast City Council, the Alliance Party does not control the balance of power on the commission.

Alliance sources have said they are still taking legal advice on the matter, but believe such a proposal would have to be subjected to a full equality impact assessment.

On 3 December an Alliance party compromise to fly the union flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days, rather than remove it altogether as Sinn Fein and SDLP proposed, was voted through.

The decision has angered loyalists who have vented their frustrations in a series of protests, some of which have turned violent.

The homes and offices of several Alliance members have been attacked. A death threat was also issued against the party's leader Naomi Long.

Twenty-nine police officers have been injured during the disturbances in Belfast in the past week - the PSNI said they were treating a petrol bomb attack on a female officer on Monday night as attempted murder.

Alliance's East Belfast MP Naomi Long said the issue of flags at Stormont had been "dormant" since 1998.

"Those that are raising it need to ask themselves why they are raising an issue in this tense environment, in this hugely inflammatory situation when they know the consequences of another argument on the flags issue," she said.

One senior Alliance source told the BBC they believe what is being suggested by unionists "does nothing to build stability".

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said the attack on the officer on Monday was "a tipping point from which political unionism needs to step back".

"It is about not taking anything that might be seen as escalating in terms of this row over symbols in public buildings," he said.

More on This Story

Related Stories

BBC News NI Live

    08:20: Eastwood on driving licences

    SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has been in our Foyle studio speaking about driving licences after a DUP motion to reverse the decision not to include the union flag on those in Northern Ireland failed.

    Colum Eastwood
    08:13: Snow in Cushendall

    Ballymena newsagent Eugene Diamond tweets: "Some customers coming in from Cushendall reporting snow on Parkmore. And it's drifting..."

    08:08: Early warning

    AMD tweets: Looks like it's started!

    Snowy road

    This early morning picture was taken in Knockahollet near Cloughmills. What's it like where you are?

    08:01: Stop smoking, start shopping Good Morning Ulster

    Northern Ireland could feature in trials in which pregnant smokers are offered vouchers to quit.

    Pregnant smokers

    Researchers in an initial trial in Glasgow found women who received vouchers worth a total of £400 were more likely to stop smoking. More coming up on Good Morning Ulster.

    07:55: Snow falling Cecilia Daly BBC News NI Weather Presenter

    Snow being reported in the Antrim Glens. Temperatures now falling away on high ground.

    Snow Wednesday Jan 28
    07:51: Linfield held to draw BBC Sport NI

    Linfield's title hopes suffered a blow last night when they were held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Ballinamallard Town - new signings Grant McCann and Glenn Belezika made their debuts for Linfield.

    Grant McCann

    Elsewhere Coleraine and Glenavon also finished 1-1 while Dungannon Swifts beat Institute 2-1.

    07:42: Train talks on track BBC Radio Foyle

    Transport officials are due to meet in Londonderry this morning to discuss the Derry train line upgrade. Discussion coming up on Radio Foyle after 8.00.

    07:31: Lifeboats answer over 500 calls

    RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards answered 565 calls for help in Northern Ireland in 2014, the charity's annual statistics show.

    RNLI inshore lifeboat

    Lifeboats launched 261 times to a variety of callouts.

    07:22: Snow warning Cecilia Daly BBC News NI Weather Presenter

    Snow warning comes into force at 08:00 - some disruption is possible later.

    07:14: Winter in Fermanagh:

    Snow on the hills and sun on the water.

    Lough Macnean near Belcoo,

    This stunning picture of Lough Macnean near Belcoo, County Fermanagh, was sent to us by Sam Anderson.

    07:09: Child crime records review plan

    People with a childhood criminal record could be allowed to ask for a review under plans revealed by the justice minister.

    A group has campaigned for people convicted of minor offences as children to be allowed to apply to have their criminal records wiped.

    07:02: 12 new jobs Clodagh Rice BBC News NI

    Smith's Engineering in Ballymena is investing almost £900k expanding its premises and creating 12 new jobs.

    The company has seen significant sales growth, doubling turnover in the last three years.

    07:00: Good morning Ciaran McCauley BBC News NI

    Welcome back to BBC News NI Live for Wednesday, 28 January - we'll have all the news, sport, travel and weather right up until 19:00.



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.