Alliance bid to change flag policy

The Alliance Party were at the centre of a storm over the flying of union flag in Ards and North Down Borough after the party suggested it should be displayed on designated days only.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:04 am
Union flag

At Ards North Down Council’s Corporate working group this week elected representatives voted to change the flags policy after locals complained when the council could not fly flags at half mast after the death of Prince Philip.

Councillors voted unanimously across the chamber for the insertion of the sentence: “In addition to the period of remembrance, flags at war memorials will be flown at half-mast following the death of the reigning Monarch.”

But during the debate, Alliance Councillor Nick Mathison proposed an amendment to the overall policy. While accepting the half mast proposal he proposed instead of the union flag flying 365 days a year, that it should only fly on designated days, at eight sites.

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Councillor Mathison said: “It is well established that Alliance Party policy is for the flag to be flown on designated days at our civic buildings and sites. Put very simply it is our view that flying flags 365 days a year is not conducive to creating inclusive spaces in our civic spaces.

“Whether it is accepted or not, we still live in a divided society.”

DUP Alderman Stephen McIlveen said: “I don’t think this is an appropriate amendment. This item is about a very minor tweak to our current policy.

“It should be dealt with as a notice of motion because the Alliance amendment is a substantial change to our policy. It should be treated that way rather than an off-the-cuff amendment tonight.

“Clearly this council has an expressed view made only a year ago, I think we should be respecting that, and nothing has changed since then.”

UUP Councillor Philip Smith said current flags policy was “a compromise.” He said changing the flying of the flag in his district electoral area of Comber would “cause ructions.”

Independent Councillor Ray McKimm said: “I am not by politics a unionist but I am fully aware that at this time the unionist community feels pressed on by both sides.

Independent Councillor Tom Smith said: “It is interesting to hear that flags are a contentious issue – I would like to hear where the contention is in flying the flag 365.

“Nobody has ever come to me in Donaghadee and said we don’t like the flag flying all year round. In fact, when the flag is damaged, they want it replaced ASAP.

“But I am not surprised by this, this is the same party that stopped the union flag flying on Belfast City Hall.”

Four Alliance party elected members voted for the proposal, while 11 elected members voted against the proposal, from the DUP, the UUP, the TUV, the Greens, and two independents.

The flag sites in question are at council offices at Church Street, Newtownards,  Castle Park, Bangor, Newtownards Conway Square, beside Blair Mayne memorial, Ballygowan, adjacent to the war memorial, the Square, Comber, the Maypole, Holywood, the Moat, Donaghadee, and Queen’s Hall, Holywood. 

The Church Street Newtownards site currently flies the union flag for 15 designated days a year.