The Union Flag could be flying in the grounds of Belfast City Hall within weeks of its removal from the front of the building, unionist councillors have claimed.
On Monday evening, the City Council voted to end the flag’s permanent presence above the iconic landmark.
The decision sparked outrage among unionists, and some of the 1,000 demonstrators holding a protest at the City Hall attempted to storm the building when news of the decision filtered through.
Sporadic violence spread to east Belfast later the same evening and an Alliance councillor has since left her home following a threat.
Although the original vote to remove the flag was proposed by a nationalist SDLP councillor, the Alliance grouping – which holds the balance of power – proposed the successful amendment to fly the flag on 20 designated days.
With a series of further protests being planned for several areas of the Province, unionist councillors are proposing the Union Flag is given a permanent position at the City Hall cenotaph.
Christopher Stalford, of the DUP, had vociferously opposed the proposal voted through on Monday.
He told the News Letter yesterday he was hopeful the flag could reappear within weeks.
With the new proposal already drafted and submitted for consideration by the relevant committees, a vote on the cenotaph flag is likely to be held in the chamber as early as January 2013.
Councillor Stalford said: “If the nationalist political parties are not motivated by a zero sum desire to insult and offend the unionist people of Belfast then I believe they should support our proposal that the Union Flag fly all year in the Garden of Remembrance at the City Hall.”
Cllr Stalford said he was bitterly disappointed the flag would no longer be a permanent fixture on the building, but added: “This is an opportunity for the nationalists to prove that they genuinely believe in the idea of a shared future. I hope that every party in the council will be able to give this proposal fair consideration and, if the consideration is fair, then they will support it.”
Alliance group leader on the City Council, Maire Hendron, agreed there could be an early decision on the cenotaph issue, but said the hasty actions of unionist councillors — in attempting to push through a new proposal within weeks — had “disrespected” the memorial.
“I object strongly to how that was done. It was such an underhand way of bringing a piece of business before the council and it took away completely from any honour or respect for the cenotaph,” she said.
On Tuesday, in a statement to the News Letter, Cllr Hendron said she would have “no objection to supporting” the cenotaph proposal.
“The Alliance Party group has not discussed flying the Union Flag at the cenotaph 365 days,” she said. “However, this is something that I personally would have no objection to supporting.”
She added: “At our next group meeting, the Alliance Party will give its full care and consideration to this issue, which I anticipate we will support.”
Yesterday, the Alliance councillor said that, at this time, she couldn’t “give any guarantee” Alliance will support the new proposal, and added: “We agreed to that timeframe at the council but I’m not convinced that that’s the right way to go in the current climate. It doesn’t pay proper respect to the cenotaph.”
Following Monday’s vote, the 20 designated days for the flying of the Union Flag include: January 20 for the birthday of the Countess of Wessex, St Patrick’s Day, Remembrance Sunday in November and the Queen’s wedding anniversary on November 20 — however, the list does not include July 12.