Northern Ireland

When the union flag can fly at city hall but not at Stormont

Flagpoles over Parliament Buildings
Image caption Stormont has a different list of designated days than Belfast city council

Q. When is a designated day not a designated day?

A. When it's in Northern Ireland.

The union flag is once more flying over Belfast City Hall to mark the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge, one of the days designated by the Department of Culture. Media and Sport in London.

However, no flag has been raised over Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

The Assembly is guided by the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000.

"There are 15 designated days; the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge is not currently on that list." said an Assembly spokesperson.

"Since 2002, in accordance with Assembly Commission policy, Parliament Buildings adheres to the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, amended by the Flags Regulation (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) 2002, which specify arrangements for the flying of the Union Flag from government buildings in Northern Ireland."


A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said: "Stormont, and other government buildings in Northern Ireland, are governed by the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, which does not cover council buildings.

"The decision by Belfast City Council was to adopt the designated days as set by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in Westminster as to the designated days for the flying of the union flag."

The Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt says he is seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to ask her to address "this inconsistency."

He said: "It is a ridiculous situation that the union flag is being flown at full mast from Belfast City Hall today, but not at Stormont, because there is more than one agreed list of designated days.

Image caption The union flag was raised at Belfast city hall to mark the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge

"It appears Belfast City Hall goes with the designated day list published by the Department of Culture Media and Sport in London, which offers 18 designated days for Northern Ireland, while Stormont is governed by the list in the Flags Regulation Order of 2000. This had 17 days, but with the deaths of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and The Princess Margaret, we are down to 15 days."

But the TUV leader Jim Allister said it was "an absolute scandal" that unionists on the Assembly Commission had failed to ensure that the list of "designated days" was kept up to date.

"It seems obvious to me that both the DUP and UUP have been asleep when it came to this issue, " he said.

"There is a unionist majority on the commission which decides when the flag flies and there is no reason why the matter could not have been addressed before now."

The Department of Culture. Media and Sport say there are 23 designated days on which the union flag can be flown at government buildings across the UK.

Three would not apply to Northern Ireland buildings (St David's Day - Wales only; St Andrew's Day -Scotland only and St George' Day - England only)

Two of those days listed are regarding the 'Day of Opening of a Session of the Houses of Parliament' by the Queen and the 'Day of the Prorogation of a Session of the Houses of Parliament' also by the Queen.

Flags should only be flown in the greater London area on these days.

To complicate matters the union flag flies every day on the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh alongside the Saltire, and the European flag.

Following Belfast City Council's decision at the start of December to fly the flag only on designated days the DUP has talked of increasing the number of days it flies at Stormont.

They want the Assembly Commission to consider the issue but so far it has been unable to meet because Sinn Fein the SDLP and Alliance have refused to attend.