Council spends £10k over flags consultation

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Craigavon Borough Council is launching a £10,000 consultation over the issue of flying flags on its public buildings and town centres.

It is doubtful whether the new policy will be invoked in time before the council is immersed in the new ABC body – the change-over is March 31, 2015. By then, ABC will have to start discussing a new policy.

An EQIA (Equality Impact Assessment) was presented to the council’s in-committee session recently, with the DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP and SDLP) offering their views, and Alliance failing to respond.

The Sinn Fein submission was tabled after the deadline, but was included in the consultation report by the group Policy Arc Limited. Opinions can be submitted to them at 13 Laurel Wood, Belfast BT8 7RA.

The DUP concluded that the Union Flag should fly from council civic buildings and from town centres 365 days a year and criticised the group for not including this option.

The UUP stated that where there is political support – “and it is not unreasonable to believe that such support exists on Craigavon Borough Council” – the flag should fly 365 days a year.

The SDLP called for all paramilitary flags to be removed and for a commission to be set up to consult with various communities, about the removal of flags erected by paramilitaries and also murals.

The Craigavon SDLP group originally proposed the designated days policy in the council, and these days are set out in a table in the report.

Sinn Fein submitted that the Irish ethos should be included, “with mutual respect and esteem instead of the short-sighted policy to promote domination of one political aspiration. But in the absence of any political will among unionist political parties to move towards a position of equality or neutrality, Sinn Fein is of the view that the current flags policy should be maintained”.

The council will be making its final decision on the policies “early next year”, by which time Craigavon Borough Council will be in its final days, provided the decision is made by March 31.