A nationalist bid to prevent the Armed Forces Day Flag from ever being flown over Belfast City Council was defeated last night.
he flag has just been flown for six days from City Hall, leading up to and including Armed Forces Day on Saturday – the second successive year this has been the case.
However, the issue has divided city councillors, with Sinn Fein and SDLP opposed to it ever flying from the building.
The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee voted last month for a policy that the flag would not fly at all.
However last night, at a meeting of the full council, unionists and the Alliance Party voted by the narrowest of margins, 21-20, for a DUP amendment that the policy going ahead should be that the Armed Forces Day Flag flies six days each year.
Sinn Fein councillor Gerard O’Neill said the people he represents had a negative view of the military.
But DUP councillor Lee Reynolds said unionists were very pleased the issue has been resolved. “We are now guaranteed the Armed Forces Day Flag will fly for six days every year,” he said.
“We are working in council to do what we can to ensure that British identity is respected.
“We have seen successes such as a new bench being installed in memory of Operation Banner and now the Armed Forces Day flag.”
Meanwhile the council also voted to allow the Orange Order to use Ballysillan Playing Fields in north Belfast on July 12. Sinn Fein strongly opposed this, however the council voted 21-20 to allow the institution access to the space.
Last December, there was anger after the council voted to stop flying the Union flag from City Hall on all but 18 statutory days each year.
Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey expressed disappointment yesterday that for the first time in 97 years the Union Flag did not above City Hall to mark the Battle of the Somme.
“It was an honour and a privilege to lay a wreath at Belfast City Hall in memory of the tens of thousands of men from Belfast and wider afield who made the supreme sacrifice at the Battle of the Somme in 1916,” he said.
“However it was notable that today was the first time in 97 years that the Union Flag did not fly above City Hall to mark the 1st July as the city remembered those who gave their lives in defence of this country.”
The Union flag will also not fly over City Hall on July 12 this year. However the News Letter understands if the Duchess of Cambridge gives birth on July 11, it could be flown on July 12 to mark that.