THE Ulster Unionist Party’s three Belfast City councillors have threatened to leave the party over comments made by colleague Basil McCrea that he supported the flying of the Union Flag at City Hall on designated days.
Mr McCrea said the flag was flown on designated days by a number of councils, including Lisburn, of which he used to be a member, and by the Assembly.
He said the flying of the Union Flag was a matter for the City Council but agreed it should fly only on designated days.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has made it clear he supported the position of wanting the flag to fly from City Hall all year round.
Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long praised Mr McCrea’s comments as “a rare show of political courage from unionism”.
However, yesterday afternoon the UUP’s three councillors in Belfast – Bob Stoker, David Browne and Jim Rodgers – said they were seriously considering their position unless the party disciplined Mr McCrea.
The three voted along with the DUP and PUP against an Alliance proposal to fly the Union Flag on statutory days from City Hall. Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors wanted the flag removed completely.
Mr Rodgers told the News Letter: “We have over 60 years’ service to the council between us and even longer to the party.
“We have been very unhappy with Basil McCrea in the last few weeks interfering with Belfast City Council, never consulting us. This is the final straw.”
Mr McCrea responded to the stance of the Belfast UUP councillors saying that he stood by the remarks that he had made on BBC Radio Ulster.
“I stated what happened at Lisburn City Council, I stated what happened in Stormont,” he said, adding that when things seemed to be damaging the economic potential of Northern Ireland, then something should be said.
“And that’s what I did. And I stand by what I said.”
The Ulster Unionist Party’s executive is set to meet on Saturday
A spokesman for the UUP said: “Mike Nesbitt made the Ulster Unionist Party’s position absolutely clear on Thursday.
“There is a fundamental issue regarding the chipping away of people’s identity as British citizens.
“No doubt Basil McCrea’s interview will be brought up when the party executive meet.”