Stormont Still Dragging its Heels on Flag One Year On

Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:

“As we approach the first anniversary of Union Flag being torn down from Belfast City Hall it is worth remembering that the situation at the seat of Northern Ireland’s devolved government, Stormont, has not changed. Currently the Union Flag flies from Parliament Buildings on only 15 days a year – fewer than on Belfast City Hall which follows the Designated Days published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

“In March TUV responded to the Commission’s consultation pointing out that
• Until 2010 the Union Flag was flown from the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster only when Parliament was sitting and on the appointed days. However, since early 2010 the National Flag has been flown all the time;

• The Welsh Assembly flies the Union Flag, the Red Dragon and the EU Flag on a daily basis;

• Up until 2006 the Union Flag was flown 365 days a year at the Scottish Parliament. Since then the SNP has implemented a designated days policy although, interestingly, it continues to fly the Saltire every day. However, even under Nationalist control the Union Flag flies on occasions which are omitted from the Designated Days listed by the Commission – such as the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge and

• The flying of the Union Flag all year round would also be in line with the advice issued following the publication of the green paper, The Governance of Britain, in July 2007 after which Government Departments were encouraged to fly the Union Flag all year round and not just on designated days.

“We strongly argued that, in common with the practice at the Welsh Assembly and the Houses of Parliament, the Union Flag should fly from Parliament Buildings 365 days a year. Such a policy would also bring us into line with the practice in Scotland because the only national flag recognised for Northern Ireland is the Union Flag.

“One would have thought that the issue would have been resolved before now however it is clear from the answer to an Assembly question I recently received that there is no urgency in relation to this issue.

“Far from Stormont operating to a Unionist agenda, as some like to pretend, there seems to be no appetite to do anything on this issue.”

Mr Allister’s question and the answer received are as follows:

To ask the Assembly Commission for an update on increasing the number of days on which the Union Flag is flown from Parliament Buildings.

At a meeting of the Assembly Commission held on 5 February 2013 the Commission tasked officials to:

consult with Parties to review the number of days upon which the Union Flag flies from Parliament Buildings,
to detail a range of options,
and to set out how a process of public consultation could be carried out and arrangements for completing an Equality Impact Assessment.

On 6 March 2013 Parties were invited to submit written statements on this issue, with a closing date for comments of 10 April 2013. Seven Parties submitted written responses. A paper on the motion was listed for initial consideration at the Commission meeting on 26 June 2013. However, it was agreed that it would be brought back to the Commission following the summer recess. A paper, detailing a range of options, will be considered at the Assembly Commission meeting to be held on the 20 November 2013. This will be the first meeting of the Commission since June 2013.

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