A motion calling for Derry City and Strabane District Council to “support” the council in Belfast’s attempts to remove flags and banners from public property, was passed on Tuesday despite unionist opposition.
The motion, brought forward by Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Cooper and seconded by the SDLP’s Martin Reilly, passed with nine votes to two at the governance committee.
The only opposition came from the DUP and UUP.
UUP councillor Derek Hussey warned that forcing the Department of Infrastructure to take action to remove the offending flags or banners from public property would “open Pandora’s box” because of the negative impact he believes such actions would have on “community effort, on the ground” around flags and banners.
DUP councillor Graham Warke said: “No one should be above the law and the law must be implemented fairly, but people are entitled to illustrate support for those who served in very difficult circumstances. People are also entitled to highlight the disproportionate focus on those who served.”
He added: “We will not be supporting this motion and will not get involved in this unseemly debate.”
Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Cooper said: “Loyalist paramilitary flags and banners supporting the British Parachute Regiment have been erected throughout the city and district in recent weeks and clearly are being used to divide, offend and cause hurt.”
Referring specifically to banners expressing support for ‘Soldier F’, who is expected to face trial for the murder of two people in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, 1972, councillor Cooper added: “This has brought particular anguish to the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday.”