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20 February 2015
The Good Friday Agreement

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Culture
Symbols and Emblems
     
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Image of opposing communities on the Ormeau Road flying flags
Opposing communities on the Ormeau Road confront each other
The Good Friday Agreement, under the section Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity, recognises the political sensitivity surrounding the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes. The signatories to the Agreement acknowledge the need "to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division". It was agreed that arrangements should be made to monitor the issue of symbols and emblems and consider what action might be required.
 
Audio and Video
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Key Newspaper Articles
Competition proposed to design flag
Building an identity on a shared past
Offensive flags? Not in our street
GAA badge provokes DUP protest
     
In 1998 the Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan introduced, with immediate effect, a recommendation from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the flying of the Union flag outside all RUC stations should stop. When Sinn Féin published its programme for government in 1999, among its recommendations was the removal from public buildings of all Union flags and symbols associated with the unionist tradition. If they were not removed, Sinn Féin said it would insist that the flag of the Republic of Ireland and nationalist symbols should be put up alongside them. Sinn Féin government ministers, Bairbre de Brún, Minister for Health, and Martin McGuinness, Minister for Education, decided when appointed to government in December 1999, that the Union flag would not fly over the buildings housing the departments they were responsible for.  
Key Newspaper Articles
Mandelson warns over flags storm
SDLP will not flag up twelfth
Would the SDLP ever fly a nationalist flag?
     
Legislation granting the Northern Ireland Secretary the power to rule on the flying of flags from public buildings was passed at Westminster on 16 May 2000. The Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, which gives the Secretary of State reserved powers, will be employed only as a last resort if the Assembly fails to reach an agreement on the flying of the Union flag from government buildings. So far the Secretary of State has not used his statutory powers.  
Key Newspaper Articles
The flags wrangle
Symbols and marches: your consent?
     
Image of Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún
Sinn Féin ministers Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún
Draft legislation proposed by former Secretary of State Mandelson in September 2000 specified seven government buildings on which the Union flag should fly on 17 designated days rather than 21. The 12 July, the high point of the Orange marching season, was not included as a designated day nor were New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. The new rules took effect on 11 November.

Sinn Féin mounted a legal challenge to the Flags Order which was introduced after Sinn Féin ministers Bairbre de Brun and Martin McGuinness refused to allow the Union flag to fly over their departments unless the Irish tricolour was flown alongside. On 4 October 2001 a High court judge dismissed Sinn Féin’s challenge and ruled the former Secretary of State’s decision did not breach the Human Rights Act or the Good Friday Agreement
 
Key Newspaper Articles
Mandelson angers both sides
Judge rejects Sinn Féin's flags deal
     
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