25,000 unionists set for Stormont on Saturday for Northern Irish centenary – but no Union Flag allowed over building

A DUP MLA has said that a request to fly the Union Flag at Stormont this Saturday has been “vetoed”.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 7:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 8:30 pm

That would have coincided with the biggest unionist parade that Northern Ireland has seen since Covid arrived.

According to the 11/1 lodged with the Parades Commission, some 25,000 participants are due to take part in a parade at 1pm from Stormont to City Hall.

Organised under the banner of the Grand Order Lodge of Ireland, the march is set to involve some 131 bands, and is to honour the centenary of NI.

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29/9/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The 100th year anniversary march to commemorate the signing of the Ulster Covenant enters Stormont as thousands of orangemen parade past Lord Carson's statue. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker. The parade this Saturday will be basically a mirror-image, going from Stormont to City Hall instead of the other way around

But Trevor Clarke has said that a bid by his party to get the flag flown on May 28 over Stormont has been refused because of “zero tolerance for any semblance of our British identity within Stormont”.

Mr Clarke is DUP MLA for South Antrim and one of the five-person Assembly Commission (which makes decisions concerning Parliament Buildings and the Stormont Estate generally).

The commission is chaired by Alex Maskey, and alongside Mr Clarke the other members are Robbie Butler (UUP) John Blair (Alliance), and Dolores Kelly of the SDLP (who remains in post for the time being despite losing her seat).

John O’Dowd had been a member, representing Sinn Fein, but the Assembly website does not make clear whether he is currently in post.

It is understood the UUP and DUP both favoured the flying of the flag, but did not gain the support needed from the other members.

Mr Clarke said: “My colleagues Keith Buchanan, Jonathan Buckley and Mervyn Storey had submitted the request to fly the Union Flag on May 28, 2022 to coincide with the Orange Order’s centenary parade. The request was made last February.

“It lays bare the intolerance for our British identity. The parade will celebrate Northern Ireland and the Union, yet tolerance is in such short supply...

“Such decisions make it much more difficult to deal with tattered flags on street furniture when elected representatives block the Union Flag flying on public building flagpoles such as Parliament Buildings.”

‘WE NEEDED CONSENSUS... AND THERE WAS NONE’:

Mr Blair and Mrs Kelly could not be reached at time of writing.

However, the commission said: “This week, the Assembly Commission considered and approved a proposal from the Speaker to light Parliament Buildings purple on June 2, 2022, to mark the Platinum Jubilee as part of the Platinum Jubilee Beacon initiative.

“Also, this week, the Assembly Commission considered a proposal to fly the Union Flag over Parliament Buildings on Saturday May 28, 2022, to coincide with the Orange Order’s centenary parade.

“In line with the approach agreed by the Assembly Commission in 2012 that all proposals to mark centenaries should be agreed by consensus, The Assembly Commission was unable to agree and therefore the request was not approved.”

CHANGE TO OFFICIAL ADVICE:

It comes against a general backdrop of cuts to the number of days Union flags should be flown from government buildings.

In March, the London government (which draws up guidelines for the whole UK) dropped the requirement for flying them on all royal birthdays, as a way of putting the day honouring Prince Andrew into abeyance.

This meant instead of 18 designated days there are now 11 fixed dates, and two unfixed ones.

They are:

6 February: Her Majesty’s Accession

1 March: St David’s Day (in Wales)

14 March: Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March)

17 March: St Patrick’s Day (in Northern Ireland)

21 April: Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen

23 April: St George’s Day (in England)

2 June: Coronation Day

2 June: Official celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday

13 November: Remembrance Day (second Sunday in November)

14 November: Birthday of the Prince of Wales

30 November: St Andrew’s Day (in Scotland)

Plus the day of the opening of a Session of the Houses of Parliament, and the day of its closing.