St Patrick's Day parade tricolour policy a '˜lost opportunity'

UUP councillor Derek Hussey said the Strabane parade had been hijacked by republicansUUP councillor Derek Hussey said the Strabane parade had been hijacked by republicans
UUP councillor Derek Hussey said the Strabane parade had been hijacked by republicans
An opportunity for an 'inclusive' St Patrick's Day celebration in Strabane has been lost following a council U-turn on the flag policy, a UUP councillor has claimed.

Councillor Derek Hussey said the decision taken by Derry City and Strabane Council on Monday night, to approve the carrying of Irish tricolours during the council-funded celebrations next month, was “disappointing in the extreme”.

Last week the council said that “in keeping with the paper” approved by the council’s business and culture committee, the Strabane event would be a cross-community celebration.

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“Therefore flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone,” it said.

Sinn Fein had said its councillors would “seek the reversal of a decision” at Monday’s meeting.

Mr Hussey said a council official, in response to a question from a Sinn Fein member, stated there was “no council policy banning flags being displayed”.

He said: “It is disappointing in the extreme, though perhaps not surprising, that council proposals to have an inclusive St Patrick’s Day parade in Strabane, at which all sections of our community would feel welcome, have been hijacked by republicans – in particular Sinn Fein – to promote a form of cultural supremacy rather than the equality agenda that they continuously espouse.”

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Mr Hussey added: “Is this also the ‘equality agenda’ whereby the local Orange lodge and band are prevented from processing through the town centre from their premises in the town of the morning of the 12th July en route to wherever the main procession may be?

“Personally I believe that the symbolism and heritage of Patrick belongs to us all and any hindrance to those wishing to celebrate the saint’s day in the true non-partisan spirit of what St Patrick preached and exhibited in his life should have been welcomed and indeed that is what council would have been trying to encourage.

“The opportunity for an inclusive St Patrick’s Day celebration in Strabane has been lost at the hands of republican intransigence.”

An Equality Commission spokesperson said the commission was “not aware of the precise details” of the situation in Strabane,” but added: “The commission is available to offer advice to any public authority on the effective implementation of their Section 75 duties including the good relations duty. We expect each public authority to apply its equality scheme arrangements to fulfil these duties.”