If NIO fudges return of royal images, it will set a precedent

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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It is likely that the row over royal pictures at Stormont House will soon be gone from the headlines.

After all, there is a relentless flow of news, and many things that are happening locally and abroad are of far greater consequence that the Northern Ireland Office decision to removed portraits of the Queen.

But it is nonetheless a matter of significant cultural importance, and it must be resolved, and publicy resolved, in favour of restitution of the images.

Otherwise it could be that the NIO reinstates the images, but quietly mixes them up with a range of different images of other dignitaries.

There is a simple reason why that would be a completely unacceptable response, and would set a precedent for an effective ban on royal imagery: it would be saying that, after paying damages in relation to a complaint over such images, the NIO never again was prepared to put up such pictures unless they were accompanied by other images.

This could then be cited in future complaints as the baseline for neutrality in a particular branch of Her Majesty’s Government — the NIO offices in Northern Ireland.

In normal circumstances there would be no problem with mixing up imagery, in much the same way that, as Leo Varadkar points out, Dublin Castle seems to have a range of images. But what now needs to happen is a clear statement that NIO ministers have the right to implement royal and British government images. There must be no doubt about that and if there is any doubt, it must be challenged in the courts.

The McArthur family who own Ashers challenged a ridiculous interpretation of ‘equality’ all the way to the Supreme Court in a supposedly hopeless case, which they then won.

The government has far greater firepower than that and must use it. The UK spends huge money supporting Northern Ireland and has sovereignty here, so it must have an unfettered right on imagery and symbols in public property, even if it decides on a case by case basis how to utilise that right.