Alliance launches consultation document on unofficial display of flags in public space

Alliance has launched a consultation on how to regulate the unofficial display of flags in public spaces, saying the practice has had a significant cost to Northern Ireland society.

East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle revealed the document – entitled ‘Celebration, Not Demarcation’ – in a bid to help resolve the issue, which statutory agencies to date have failed to address in a fair and respectful way.

“In a democracy, people may fly flags in order to celebrate and commemorate, provided the event, display and flag are lawful. However, their unofficial and aggressive display is often used to mark territory, which has been a recurrent source of tension in many areas and is a significant barrier to ensuring public space is shared and free from intimidation, as well as limiting community and business development.

“This consultation does not question the right of people to display legal flags from private property, nor would it change the law around flying of flags on public buildings or affect people’s ability to fly flags on their own homes. But there is a need for a clear, transparent framework to give a time-bound, respectful approach which could create a fairer balance between the right to celebrate events with legal flags and the right of everyone to be safe and welcome.

“The Department for Regional Development has confirmed it has been deterred from removing flags due to threat of violence against staff. As a result, many complaints go unaddressed, with the implicit result that violence defines outcomes. That is clearly not acceptable in any society based on the rule of law.

“The recent Northern Ireland Life and Times survey showed three out of four people, from all sections of the community, did not support flag-flying in their neighbourhood. Simply doing nothing is no longer an option – that’s why we need an alternative.”


Where there is a request to display flags in a public space or on public property other than Government buildings, Alliance proposes:

· The responsibility for administering this law be with a body subject to appropriate legislation, which is able to issue licences for up to two weeks, with no further licence for the flying of similar flags being granted for at least another two weeks following this.
· The applicant must set out the purpose of celebration or commemoration for which the flags will be displayed; the public space or public property where it is intended to be displayed; the dates and the nature, size and design of the flags involved.
· The applicant will accept responsibility for complying with the conditions, including any costs for raising and removing flags. They will also be required to post a bond to ensure any outstanding costs can be recovered by the public purse.
· In making its determination, the licencing authority must take account of Executive policy of all public space being shared space, as well as the flying of flags not referring to illegal organisations, the killing or injury of anyone, or to incite hatred.

The consultation will launch on Monday, January 25, 2016 and will be available at It closes on Monday, March 21, 2016.

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