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Constant inaction from Executive Office allowing abuse of flags, identity, culture and tradition to divide, says Bradshaw

Constant inaction from the Executive Office is allowing the abuse of flags, memorials, language and heritage to continue to perpetuate divides here rather than promote our common cultures, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has said.

The South Belfast representative was speaking ahead of bringing an Alliance motion to the Assembly on Monday (March 22). It calls for recognition of the failure of leadership to deal with issues relating to flags, identity, culture and tradition (FICT) in Northern Ireland, while seeking publication by the First Minister and deputy First Minister of the FICT report and to bring its recommendations to the Executive.

She said draft legislation for language and culture issues as agreed in the New Decade, New Approach agreement was needed urgently, alongside delivery of a legislative framework for the display of flags and emblems on public property.

“No one should have any concerns about genuine expressions of cultural celebration and commemoration through the display of flags, emblems and memorials in public. A framework for clearly communicated, respectful and time-bound display of such emblems for such purposes would do much to bring communities together,” she said.

“It is long past time, however, those who are abusing the democratic right to display emblems to intimidate, mock, or divide were stopped from doing so. The issues around this, including the underlying issue of paramilitarism and gang culture, have gone unchallenged for too long.

“We need the Executive Office to stop making excuses and start the real action. It is beyond parody £800,000 of public money could be spent on a report for it to lie hidden from public scrutiny and subject to endless, unaccountable working groups. Also now concealed in the black hole of the Executive Office is the Office of Identity and Cultural Expression, promised over a year ago but still delayed.

“Everything, from flags and memorials to language and heritage, continues to be abused to perpetuate the divide rather than promoted as a common cultural wealth. Constant inaction from the Executive Office merely allows this to continue.

“The days of abusing democratic rights and legitimate cultural expression must be in the past. We need publication of the report, bringing forward the legislation and the drafting of a legislative framework to promote legitimate cultural expression, ending the intimidatory use of symbols immediately. The excuses have run out.”