We cannot continue to allow people to be held to ransom by flags and emblems in public spaces, say Bradshaw and Egan

We cannot continue to allow communities to be held to ransom by the presence of some flags, emblems and banners, Alliance representatives have said ahead of the party’s Assembly motion calling for urgent action from the first and deputy first Ministers on the matter.

Paula Bradshaw Flags

The motion calls for the Executive Office to provide lawful authority for the display of flags and emblems in public spaces for the purpose of celebration or commemoration, which would in turn enable the removal of flags and emblems placed for purposes of intimidation or antagonism.

Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw, Chair of the Assembly’s Executive Office Committee, said action was needed on the issue.
“The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) has agreed the status quo on this matter does not command support,” she said.
"While some issues needed to be ironed out on the way forward, we cannot continue to deny progress when it is agreed there must be change. The purpose of having Ministers is to find ways forward which command consensus but which also recognise the serious challenges emerging from maintenance of the status quo.
"If no action is taken, Alliance will be proceeding with introducing legislation to deliver progress in recognition of the fact there is a consensus for urgent change."
North Down MLA Connie Egan, Deputy Chair of the Executive Office Committee, said flags was an issue raised consistently with her and other MLAs.
“Every year, we see flags erected on street furniture without community consultation, to the frustration of many. Often, they are promoting proscribed paramilitary organisations, creating a chill factor for the majority of the community.
“The infrastructure Minister recently confirmed to me none of these flags had been removed in the past five years, which is shocking. The approach of organisations passing the buck simply isn’t good enough. We cannot allow communities to continue to be held to ransom in this way.
“That is why we are bringing this motion, and calling on the First and deputy First Minister to consult and develop a legal framework as has been outlined in the FICT report. We have an opportunity to promote good relations and understanding in our community, and it is essential we take it.”
Wording of the motion below -
Motion: Display of Flags, Emblems and Banners
“That this Assembly notes Chapter 11 of the report of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition; endorses the proposed code of practice for the respectful display of flags at paragraph 11.48; recognises lawful authority for the display of flags, emblems and banners from public property does not exist; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to develop, urgently, a consultation on how such lawful authority may be provided within the bounds of the proposed code of practice.”