Northern Ireland

Union flag to fly every day in Craigavon after council vote

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Media captionThe union flag will now fly all year round at Craigavon Borough Council's headquarters

The union flag has been raised at Craigavon Borough Council's headquarters after councillors voted to fly the flag all year round.

Before the vote, the flag was flown at the civic centre on designated days.

An equality impact assessment, seen by the BBC, recommended that the council did not change their current policy.

Sinn Féin said the year-round display was an "illogical" decision that "flies in face of advice from the Equality Commission and legal advice".

However, the flag will only remain up until April when the new super council take control and will have to vote on its own flag policy.

The DUP raised the possibility of flying the flag all year round in 2013 following the flag row at Belfast City Hall.

An equality impact assessment (EQIA) was carried out and the council has now been given the results.

Sinn Féin said unionist councillors had ignored the EQIA, carried out at a cost to ratepayers of £10,000, "which clearly showed there was no interest or support for the flying of the union flag".

Responses

In total, 1,329 people responded to the survey with just over half of the responses (54%) from people from a Catholic background while 21% were from those with a Protestant background.

The Equality Commission, The Community Relations Council and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland also made formal responses.

The DUP, UUP, SDLP also made submissions. Sinn Féin's submission was late and the Alliance Party did not submit a response.

Those who took part were given a number of options including flying the union flag at seven locations, flying no flags or flying the Irish tricolour alongside the union flag.

The vast majority of the responses (442) indicated that no flags should be flown on the buildings.

In summary, the report recommends that there was "no compelling argument to move away from the current policy" and highlights the potential for a legal challenge if they did.

The report says "for these reasons it is recommended that the existing policies on the flying of the union flag should continue to operate for the remaining life of the council".

'Depressing final legacy'

DUP councillor Carla Lockhart said: "I made the proposal that the union flag should fly every day on the council's civic centre and I welcome that other councillors supported this compromise position.

"The EQIA does not lead us to believe that this will cause offence to a large number of people," she said.

"This compromise on our original proposal of seven locations will strike the right balance between acknowledging Northern Ireland's constitutional position and not causing offence to those who oppose it."

Sinn Féin councillor Gemma McKenna said the vote was a "depressing final legacy of Craigavon council that has unfortunately been stained by unionist dogma and sectarianism.

"Sinn Féin will be seeking legal advice on this matter and are determined to ensure that those councillors who have left the ratepayers of Craigavon facing further legal expense are held fully to account for wasting public funds and ignoring the ratepayers."

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