OFMDFM refuses to set up flags group: McCarthy

The Office of First and Deputy First Minister has no intention of setting up an Interdepartmental Working Group to tackle the ongoing problem of paramilitary flags, emblems and graffiti, despite a unanimous call from the floor of the Assembly, Alliance Chief Whip Kieran McCarthy MLA has said.

Mr McCarthy expressed his disappointment following advice from the Assembly Speaker, which confirmed that the Executive can ignore passed Assembly motions. He has also received a written answer from OFMDFM confirming that the working group would not be set up.

The Strangford member said the Executive’s lack of any legal responsibility to do anything was evidence that it was not taking its responsibilities seriously.

Mr McCarthy wrote to the Speaker after he revealed that the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) had not set up the working group to, despite a unanimous call by MLAs to do so last September 24.

Mr McCarthy said: “Paramilitary flags and graffiti are not just symbols of sectarian division and a violent past, but a blight on our society. Yet the Executive’s interest appears to have flagged, as it has done absolutely nothing to tackle this important issue.”

“These flags are put up every single year, where they hang until they become tattered rags. Likewise, sectarian graffiti is grossly offensive and lowers the tone of many otherwise respectable neighbourhoods.”

“To put something as important as this on the long finger is unacceptable, and not just to Alliance.”

“However, there is an underlying problem here. It appears that the Executive has the absolute right to ignore calls from the Assembly floor, even when they are unanimous.”

“That is unfair to the MLAs from across the political spectrum who want to see something done about symbols of sectarianism, and have positive suggestions to make.”


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