A new Northern Ireland flag should be created to complement the Union Flag – but flying the Irish Tricolour would probably see Stormont collapse, a unionist veteran has said.
Lord Kilclooney, who is Northern Ireland’s longest serving politician still actively involved in politics, said that the suggestion of a regional flag for the Province would bring it into line with England, Scotland and Wales.
The former Ulster Unionist deputy leader is a vice chairman of Westminster’s all-party group on flags and heraldry which promotes the flying of the Union Flag.
He told the News Letter: “The Union Flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom of which, as confirmed by the Belfast Agreement, Northern Ireland is part. This was accepted by all parties to the Agreement.
“However, whilst England (St George’s Cross) Scotland (St Andrew’s Cross) and Wales (The Dragon) have individual regional flags, the Flags Institute in London confirms that Northern Ireland has no official regional flag.
“It should now be possible to design a regional flag, not to replace the Union Flag, which is acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland and flown at all local authority buildings irrespective of which party controls these councils.”
But the peer, who was first elected to the old Stormont in 1965 and served as a minister under both James Chichester-Clark and Brian Faulkner, warned that any attempt to fly the Republic of Ireland’s flag north of the border would be deeply destabilising.
“As a result of the Belfast Agreement the people of the Republic of Ireland voted to abandon their territorial claim over Northern Ireland.
“To now fly the Tricolour officially would be contrary to that decision and would undermine the Agreement, leading probably to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Dr Haass floated the suggestion of a new flag for the Province last month in a private series of questions about their positions in key areas.
But, when the proposal became public the DUP and UUP reacted negatively while the TUV dismissed the idea, arguing that it was an attempt to diminish the status of the Union Flag.
On the unionist side only NI21 and the Northern Ireland Conservatives said that they saw merit in the proposal.