Northern Ireland

Mitchel McLaughlin: Stormont needs 'symbolism rebalance'

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Media captionMitchel McLaughlin said he had to be realistic about the scale of the challenge

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, has said Stormont should have more symbols to better reflect society.

Mr McLaughlin called for the changes at the Speaker's annual St Patrick's event in parliament buildings.

He said the building contained art and symbolism that did not reflect all cultural identities.

The Sinn Féin MLA added he would be the "first to oppose its removal", but said more symbols should be added.

"No threat"

Mr McLaughlin said he was realistic about the scale of the challenge and the issue should be addressed "in a consensual way without provoking controversy".

He said achieving "a balance in this society, which demonstrates a respect to all without being deliberately provocative, should be of no threat to anyone".

The speaker welcomed the fact that Stormont will be "bathed in green" on Tuesday, as the result of a decision to illuminate the building with green lights to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

It follows what the speaker said was a "mature and constructive" agreement by the Assembly Commission some days ago, to mark four annual events with signature colours.

'Orange glow'

The move includes turning Stormont orange to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne and marking Remembrance Day in November.

The Sinn Féin MLA said he was "absolutely delighted that this building will have an orange glow on the 12th of July".

"Some people might be surprised at me saying that. Some might not be happy with me saying that. My approach is simple, you can't expect anyone else to respect your culture if you don't respect theirs," he added.

He cited his recent visit to Flanders to commemorate casualties of the First World War and his decision to act as President of the Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as a signal of his intentions to use his tenure as speaker to "set down a marker for respect".

In his St Patrick's Day eve address, Mr McLaughlin said: "This building contains art and symbolism which does not reflect the cultural identities of all of our members or communities.

"However, I will be the first to oppose its removal. This building was shaped by the context in which it was built and that is deeply cherished by much of our community.

"We cannot ignore our history. It would be disrespectful to try to airbrush that history away," Mr McLaughlin added.


"Stormont should better reflect the journey we have made since 1998 and the society this assembly now represents, inclusive of all political opinion, all faiths and none, men and women, the whole community.

"Adding to what we have already achieved can be addressed in a consensual way without provoking controversy, by focusing on positive outcomes, by democratic persuasion rather than confrontation.

"Achieving a balance in this society, which demonstrates a respect to all without being deliberately provocative should be of no threat to anyone. Achieving that balance in a way which upholds respect to all and avoids conscious disrespect to anyone is an important goal."

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