Union flag dispute: DUP cenotaph proposal fails

Belfast City Hall exterior shot In December, a council vote to restrict the union flag at Belfast City Hall sparked loyalist protests

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A DUP proposal to fly the union flag every day of the year from the cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall has been rejected by city councillors.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance voted against change to the council's policy while unionist members voted in favour.

The DUP proposed the motion amid controversy over an earlier decision to limit the number of days the flag is flown from the 106-year-old city hall.

On Thursday, the Royal British Legion said it was opposed to the proposal.

The cenotaph proposal was brought before a meeting of the council's Policy and Resources Committee on Friday, which took the vote without a discussion.

The full council is expected to consider the matter next month but it will fail without support from Alliance.

Analysis

The battle over the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Council is likely to shift direction in the future.

According to council sources, unionists are focussing their efforts away from the flag being restored on a daily basis to increasing the number of days the flag should be flown.

While loyalists protested at the change of policy, the DUP had suggested the Union flag fly from the Cenotaph every day.

With this proposal set for certain defeat, unionist sources say they want more flag days. Already there is a firm proposal to the Department of Culture in London to have July 1st, the anniversary of the Somme, added to the official list.

It's also being proposed that new flag days follow two themes: civic pride and remembrance.

Suggestions include Ulster Day, to mark the signing of the Ulster Covenant, and the anniversary of the battle of Messines, a key battle of the first World War.

In a statement, Alliance Councillor Maire Hendron said her party did not support the cenotaph proposal, after the results of a council equality assessment advised against it.

She said Alliance had made its decision in line with its long-standing designated days policy.

Ms Hendron said the designated days option was also the favoured outcome of the majority of respondents to a consultation - including the Royal British Legion.

The veterans' organisation said its Garden of Remembrance in the city hall grounds was "sacrosanct" and it did not want it politicised.

The DUP said it noted that "there is a difference of opinion among veterans organisations on this proposal with some fully supportive but others not".

"It is the DUP's intention that there is a positive outcome at the May Council meeting. It is pursuing all avenues with other parties to achieve this goal," a party statement said.

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