THE current controversy raging about the flying of the Union Flag on Belfast City Hall was not manufactured by unionists.
This is an argument that the unionist council members played no part in creating or prolonging.
It was entirely the creation of nationalist political representatives in Belfast City Council who have chosen to pursue this issue with an energy and vigour I wish they could summon up for issues like securing the best value for ratepayers’ money in the city.
It is very sad indeed that for some people pursuing a kulturkampf against a flag and symbols which caused offence to virtually nobody was a higher priority than dealing with the very serious issues that we were elected to tackle.
It is equally sad that this behaviour has received the acquiescence of the Alliance Party.
Despite the fact that we had no part in provoking this argument, the DUP and Ulster Unionists have not been slow to react to this shameful scheme to remove the flag of our country from the City Hall.
Members of both parties have worked jointly on a co-ordinated campaign to ensure that 15,000 signatures have been submitted to the council opposing any change in the current policy.
I would like to publicly thank everyone who signed the petition on this issue.
From the figures provided to us by council officers, it is clear that the vast majority of those who responded are opposed to any changes in the existing policy.
Ultimately, however, this will be a political decision. The mathematics of the council means any nationalist demand for this unwanted change in policy will take place unless the Alliance Party votes against it.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP are both committed to tearing the flag down on all but a few days each year.
They say this is a stepping stone to their ultimate goal: no flag at all. The Alliance Party has a decision to make. Will they use their votes in the council to facilitate such a petty and mean-spirited course of action which will damage community relations or will they take account of the consultation responses and rebuff such small-mindedness?
Abstaining is not an option, because that is as good as voting to remove the flag. This issue rests entirely in the hands of the Alliance Party and I hope they will make the right decision.