Saying so much for the so-called shared future in the North of Ireland
THE DUP is to fly the Union Flag on five more government buildings under its control in Belfast – at a cost of up to £10,000 to the public. Nationalists will be unable to prevent the flags flying on designated days bbecause the publicly owned buildings – three of which are near the city hall – are controlled by DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson, (pictured below).
Last month the party was forced to accept defeat on an effort to fly the flag from the cenotaph in the grounds of the city hall after the Royal British Legion said it did not want it. The Department of Finance and Personel already flies the flag from four buildings but Mr Wilson has ordered his civil servents to erect flagpoles at five more, including two at May Street and one at College Street, Belfast. A fourth will fly on a Northern Ireland Civil Service building at Airport Road West and a fifth at Rosepark House on Upper Newtownards Road. The Alliance Party branded the move “cynical”. The SDLP condemned the DUP minister as “silly and childish”. A spokesman for the Department of Fiance and Personnel confirmed that work is under way to erect the new flagpoles at a cost of up to £10,000 to taxpayers. “The regulation gives the discretion to fly the Union Flag at any other government buildings on specified days and the minister has confirmed he wants the department to fly the Union Flag at buildings where we have premises responsibilty,” she said.
When complete it will bring to nine the number of buildings under DFP control which will fly the Union Flag on designated days. “Currently a flagpole is in place and the flag flies on designated days on four DFP buildings. “Estimated cost per site is £500-£2,000 depending on the complexity of works required at each site – location of flagpole, structural issues, site preparation works required etc. Work shshould be completed at all sites within four months,” the spokeswoman said. The flag already flies at Land and Property Services at Academy House, Ballymena and Colby House, Stranmillis and Queen’s Court, Upper Queen Street in Belfast and at Craigantlet Buildings on the Stormont Estate which houses the minister’s department headquarters. The Alliance Party branded the flag pole moves “cynical” while the SDLP condemned the DUP minister as “silly and childish”. Both parties warned the minister there could be implications for fair employment legislation among workers at the sites.
“It’s hard to think this is not connected to the flags dispute. It is a cynical move but we all must move beyond that and start discussions,” Alliance councillor Andrew Webb said. “I appeal for the minister to pause for breath and plot a sensible way forward on a Northern Ireland policy on flags.” The SDLP’s Alban Maginness also condemned the move. “This is just childish nonesence. The minister has obviously lost his perspective in this matter of the flying of flags. It is an unnecessary expence on the public purse to fulfil some sort of DUP craving to see the Union Flag all over the place,” he said. But supporting the scheme, PUP councillor John Kyle said government buildings were distinct from other places were the flag was flown for cultural reasons. “Within civic society we need to allow people to express cultural identity. However, it seems appropriate that we draw a distinction in favour of it flying on government buildings.” The erection of the new flag poles comes after the DUP was last month forced to accept defeat on an effort to fly the flag from the cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall after the Royal British legion said it did not want it. That followed months of street protests after Belfast City Council voted to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at the city hall to designated days.
With many thanks to : Andrea McKernon, Irish News
- Finance minister’s union flags order (bbc.co.uk)
- £10,000 to Put Up New Flag Poles in Belfast (belfastdaily.co.uk)
- DUP flags move ‘a ploy to get care homes off the front page’ (newsletter.co.uk)
- DUP abandons proposal for Union flag at Belfast City Hall Cenotaph (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Royal British Legion rejects DUP plea to fly Union flag at Belfast cenotaph (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Committee votes against proposal to fly Union Flag at city cenotaph (newsletter.co.uk)
- DUP abandons Cenotaph flags plan (bbc.co.uk)