“The unregulated flying of flags from lampposts is without doubt a significant issue for a lot of people living and working in South Belfast, so we should not underestimate the scale of the problem,” said Ms Bradshaw.
“Residents are concerned flags are displayed as symbols of marking territory, which undermines their desire to live in a mixed community, and also has an impact on traders’ ability to reach out to the whole community.
“But a shared future does not mean a neutral, nondescript future. In a progressive society, we need to recognise the display of emblems and flags is a legitimate democratic right, whether we endorse the emblem or flag ourselves.
“However, people have had enough of politicians claiming they want to build consensus but then putting all sorts of caveats over what the outcome must be. But if we can manage that somewhere as diverse as South Belfast, we can manage it anywhere. As such, I hope all South Belfast elected representatives will engage positively and constructively with the work on my Private Member’s Bill, so we can address this issue for residents, workers and traders, once and for all.
“However, the failure of any Ministers to attend today’s debate reflects poorly upon them and their desire to resolve the issue. Passing the buck is one of the reasons the flags issue is so significant, so I hope in future the Executive finds time to respond to such important matters.”