FLAG DISPUTE RETURNS

A FLAGS row is coming back to fly over the heads of Ards and North Down Council once again.

Unionists are launching a bid to have the Union Flag flown from every war memorial in the borough all year round, instead of the current rota of mainly only flying it for a fortnight around November’s remembrance ceremonies.

Seven months ago, a similar bid was defeated by Alliance while angry protesters demonstrated outside Bangor City Hall, accusing the party of trying to take the flag away by refusing to fly it all year round.

The previous row saw Unionists vote through a policy change that would have seen the UK’s national flag flying from all war memorials and every council building every day of the year.

Alliance councillors were opposed to that, arguing that only flying the flag from council property on 15 designated days – as is the case with civic buildings in England and Wales – should be sufficient.

The party’s politicians also pointed out that the British Legion hadn’t asked for the flag to be flown from war memorials every day, while equality impact reports raised issues around civic buildings as they’re workplaces in addition to being used by the public.

Alliance formally called in that policy change, resulting in a second vote that needed a supermajority of 80% of councillors in favour of the move to pass.

During a crunch vote at the end of March, less than 60% of the council backed the Unionist-driven flags change – resulting in it failing.

Civic buildings have been stripped from the new bid, leaving just the borough’s 13 war memorials at the heart of the proposal.

The new move is the brainchild of independent Unionist councillors Wesley Irvine and Steven Irvine, as well as UUP alderman Mark Brooks. It’s likely to hit the council debate floor next month.