In their adjournment debate on illegally displayed flags and emblems in East Belfast at the Assembly today, East Belfast Alliance MLAs Chris Lyttle & Judith Cochrane called on the First and Deputy First Minister to review the flags protocol for Northern Ireland and deliver a framework consistent with a shared future.
Chris Lyttle MLA said: “Alliance upholds the right to freedom of expression that doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights or is in breach of the hard earned peace in this community. We actively encourage the positive celebration of culture and identity and recognise the right of an individual to display non-proscribed flags on their own private property on any day of the year.
“I would hope, however, that all politicians agree that the display of flags to intimidate, to demarcate territory or flags depicting proscribed organisations are not only negative for East Belfast, but undermine peace and progress in this region. This is however not just an issue for East Belfast, but for the whole of Northern Ireland.
“Today, in the middle of October there are flags of different nationality displayed on public street furniture across East Belfast in a tattered state and some of them are even upside down. Is really the way we want to express our culture and identity?
“I must also reference the positive work that has taken place in East Belfast that has led the way on this issue in many respects. Many people in East Belfast have worked courageously on reimaging community projects supported by the Arts Council and Belfast City Council.
“The Office of First & Deputy First Minister has policy responsibility for good relations and for the public display of flags and emblems. If the First and Deputy First Minister’s commitment to a Shared East Belfast and a Shared Northern Ireland is to be taken serious, then it is time for them to deliver the long overdue and inclusive review of the flags protocol and give their full support to a policy framework that encourages the respectful display of flags and emblems consistent with a shared future.”
East Belfast Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane said: “We cannot overlook the growing problem of flags flying from lampposts for indeterminate periods of time, and the demarcation of public space that this inevitably creates.
“This is constructive neither to social understanding nor economic development, at a time when it is most needed.
“The onus is on this administration to build upon the work that has been done previously on this issue and use to our advantage the wealth of gainful information that has already been gathered. In light of all we have touched upon already, we must take these factors into consideration going forward and work together to establish and enforce a new flags protocol.”