Prince Philip: Council to hold special meeting over requests to fly Union Flag at half mast

Mid Ulster District Council is considering a request from unionist councillors for a special meeting to consider flying the Union Flag at half-mast to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 9:09 am
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 9:31 am

Prince Philip is to be buried tomorrow after passing away peacefully at Windsor Castle last Friday.

Eight unionist councillors at the council have requested a special meeting under 3.2 of standing orders to raise their request.

The council has a standing policy of not flying any flags but unionist members have asked for an exception to be made, claiming that hundreds of ratepayers have been phoning the council with the same request.

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Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast in 2014. Photo: Kevin Scott / Presseye

A council spokeswoman confirmed last night that the request from unionist councillors had been received and was under consideration.

DUP Group Leader Paul McLean said: “We requested that the Union Flag be flown at half-mast to mark the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh but the Council Chairman has declined that request.

“We disagree with the decision and have requisitioned a meeting for the Chairman to explain to those in Mid Ulster who want to show their respect for the Duke of Edinburgh why this position has been taken. The chairman has seven days to grant the meeting. Unionists may only make up 15 of the 40 members but we have a right to be heard and to receive an explanation. It is extraordinary that the Sinn Fein Speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly can have the Union Flag flying at half-mast on Parliament Buildings but here in Michelle O’Neill’s constituency another Sinn Fein Councillor has refused to fly the Union Flag at half-mast as a mark of respect.”

It needed signatures from one fifth of the council to meet the requirement for a special meeting, and the eight councillors who signed the request met that demand.

It is understood it is now a matter for the Sinn Fein Mayor Cahal Mallaghan to decide if such a meeting would take place, however the DUP does not expect this to happen.S

inn Fein did not respond to requests for comment on the matter yesterday, nor did the SDLP.

The council is not lighting up the building or flying the Union Flag at half mast although it has opened a book of condolences.

The DUP said the council had received hundreds of calls from ratepayers asking for the Union Flag to be flown at half mast.

Assuming that the special meeting would not take place in advance of the Duke’s funeral on Saturday, the DUP said they would be requesting a council meeting where the mayor and Chief Executive would explain “to the people of Mid Ulster” why they had declined to fly the Union Flag at half mast.

Derry City and Strabane, Newry Mourne and Down, Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh councils all confirmed this week that they will not be flying the Union Flag at half mast, despite the request from some unionists for them to make an exception.

“While we have received requests to fly flags at half-mast, the Council currently has a ‘no flags’ policy and so does not fly flags on any occasion,” said a spokeswoman for the Mid Ulster District Council.

Many local authorities in Northern Ireland follow the Flags Regulations which align the designated days for flag flying at Government buildings with the rest of the UK. The regulations say the Union Flag should be flown at half mast following the death of a member of the royal family, or of a serving or former UK prime minister.

However the four councils which will not be flying the flag at half mast said today that they all have strict and long standing policies of not flying flags of any type.

Neither Sinn Fein nor the SDLP responded to requests for comment.

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