The flags issue flared at Craigavon Council on Monday night after an acrimonious row between the main unionists parties.
DUP Cllr Darren Causby had queried why the flags issue had been placed in confidential business in the minutes and accused council of an attempt to hide issues.
His proposal that it should be in the public domain was ousted following an intense debate and a counter motion by Sinn Fein that it was a ‘nonsense motion’ and the council ‘move on’.
Cllr Causby said his party was not happy about how this has been dealt with and that the DUP motion on flags was canned until after the Haass talks which are now over.
He said the Office of First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) have no remit on how many days the flag can be flown on civic buildings. He insisted the issue needs to be brought back to council and not deferred until after the election.
Alderman Arnold Hatch said it was the DUP’s own party who had invited Haas to deal with this issue and poured sour milk on the DUP’s statement that it had nothing to do with the OFMDFM.
Cllr Carla Lockhart said she was disappointed that once again the issue of the union flag had not been addressed by council and proposed that the matter be deferred for one month in order to exact an Equality Impact Asssessment.
However, Sinn Fein’s Liam Mackle said that would mean another £5-10k of ratepayers money being spent on a QUIA. “This is a nonsense motion,” said Cllr Mackle and proposed the council move on. Cllr Mackle’s proposal that the minutes be accepted the council move on was passed with 14 voting for and 10 against.
After the meeting the UUP accused the DUP of engaging in a stunt in advance of the elections. Deputy Mayor Colin McCusker said: “The UUP would like to see the Union Flag flying 365 days per year in Craigavon. However, the DUP will achieve nothing, except land the ratepayer with a very expensive bill. Their proposed review will require an Equality Impact Assessment report, potentially costing the ratepayers thousands of pounds, but with no guarantee that it will resolve the flying of the Union Flag to our satisfaction.”
Cllr Carla Lockhart slammed the UUP Councillors including Deputy Mayor McCusker who voted with Sinn Fein and the SDLP to block the review into the Council’s flag policy from proceeding: “The only result of this decision has been to allow Sinn Fein to de-rail the review which had been underway.”