Unionists and nationalists both need to compromise on the flying of the Union Flag, one of Ian Paisley’s sons has said.
Kyle Paisley, who is a Free Presbyterian minister in England, told the News Letter that there was a need for “some sort of middle ground” and suggested that the Cross of St Patrick should fly from Belfast City Hall on days when the Union Flag is not flown.
The Rev Paisley, who is minister of Oulton Broad Free Presbyterian Church in Suffolk and the twin brother of North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr, made his comments in response to last week’s Assembly debate about the flying of flags from the headquarters of the 11 new councils, which will take up office next year.
The UUP proposed that the Union Flag should fly on a minimum of designated days across the Province and every day in Belfast, while Alliance proposed that the Union Flag should fly on designated days across the Province. The SDLP and Sinn Fein vetoed both proposals. The Rev Paisley said: “Perhaps [UUP MLA] Tom Elliott is right when he says ‘people should not deliberately confuse sovereignty with identity’.
“However, neither should loyalists use the flag issue as an excuse to stir up sectarian strife, or to attack the PSNI, to the delight of dissident republicans.
“If they are as patriotic as they claim, then perhaps they should come to Britain and see how things are done here.
“The Union flag is not flown on public buildings on the mainland 365 days a year - not even from Buckingham Palace.
“But hardly a soul in England considers this an undermining of national sovereignty or detrimental to cultural identity.”
The Rev Paisley proposed a “compromise” in Belfast City Council, suggesting that it could fly the Cross of St Patrick on those days that are not designated for the Union Flag because “all sections of the community in Northern Ireland can identify with Patrick”.
He added: “I think there are sometimes people in both communities who are over-sensitive about the flag issue so maybe it is a good idea to look for some some sort of middle ground.
“The national flag should never be removed altogether from public buildings. It should be flown at some time in the year on all public buildings.”
The Rev Paisley added that he believed Belfast City Council should not have voted to stop flying the Union Flag every day from Belfast City Hall because it had “stirred up strife”. However, he said that he recognised from the political make-up of the council that flying the flag every day was unlikely to be endorsed by a majority of the current council.