Northern Ireland

Cross of St Patrick: 'Unity flag' for Northern Ireland?

Image caption Could the Saltire of St Patrick be a 'unity' flag for Northern Ireland?

The government has been asked what consideration has been given to adopting the cross of Saint Patrick as a unity flag for all communities representing Northern Ireland.

Conservative MP Henry Smith asked the question in the House of Commons.

The new Northern Ireland Office junior minister Kris Hopkins said the issue of flags in NI was "a sensitive and complex one".

He said any change in arrangements would require cross-community support.

"The Stormont House Agreement included a commitment to a commission on flags, identity, culture and tradition, and this was established in June," he added.

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Media captionEnglish Conservative MP Henry Smith asks NIO minister Kris Hopkins about a 'cross of St Patrick' flag

Saint Patrick's Saltire or Saint Patrick's Cross is a red saltire on a white field, used to represent Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

The red saltire's association with Saint Patrick dates from the 1780s, when the Order of Saint Patrick adopted it as an emblem.

The saltire was added to the British flag to form the Union Flag still used by the United Kingdom after the 1800 Act of Union joined the Kingdom of Ireland with the Kingdom of Great Britain.

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