MLAs have rejected the reinstatement of the Union Flag above Belfast City Hall on a permanent basis.
In a late night Assembly sitting, the Ulster Unionist proposed amendment to the Local Government Bill was defeated on a cross-community vote. The decision came at the end of a two-day debate which eventually saw the bill passed to its consideration stage.
There were widespread protests by loyalists when Belfast City Council voted in December 2012 to restrict the flying of the flag to a number of designated days only.
A further UUP proposal for the compulsory flying of the flag over all council buildings was also defeated.
The new bill governs the powers available to the 11 new ‘super councils’ being created after the elections in May.
The SDLP and Sinn Fein had submitted a petition of concern on the amendments concerning flags – resulting in them going to a cross-community vote.
NI21 leader Basil McCrea said the Ulster Unionist proposal was “deliberately provocative”.
He said his party supports the designated days protocol, and added: “Knowing full well that Sinn Fein and the SDLP would put in a petition of concern against their amendment it is clear the UUP was seeking a reaction. I am at a loss as to what the UUP is hoping to achieve apart from raising tensions and dividing the city.”