New City Hall flag debate put back

By Ciara Quinn

A PROPOSAL to fly the union flag 365 days a year at the Garden of Remembrance in the grounds of City Hall will not be debated at Monday’s Council meeting.

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood says it will be a matter of “getting back to business” when Belfast City Council holds its full monthly meeting on Monday, the first since the union flag furore erupted.

Cllr Attwood told the Andersonstown News that the proposal to fly the flag 24/7 at the Cenotaph would have to be discussed by the Council’s Diversity Working Group and that time was needed to consider the matter and it won’t be part of Council business on Monday night. The earliest the Cenotaph proposal can now be discussed at full Council is February.

“If it had gone as planned, this Monday night coming we could have had another Groundhog Day on our hands,” he said. “It has been a very difficult month for Belfast and the citizens of this city have been impacted in a number of ways since December 3. There is no doubt it has been a difficult time.

“What happened on December 3 was a historical compromise, an honourable compromise to accept that the union flag be flown on designated days, which is what happens at Stormont and. Clearly, for some elements of unionism this caused great hurt and pain. The SDLP respect their right to protest peacefully – but to have brought serious and sinister threats to elected representatives from whatever quarter and do damage to their own community is unacceptable and people need to consider what is the best way to move forward.

“Equally, there is a responsibility on unionism to realise that it was a political and democratic decision that was taken.”

Cllr Attwood said that one positive that has been lost is the work between the parties that saw “the historic investment package come into the city”.

“All parties came together to work and agree how to bring jobs to this city to ultimately provide a good outcome and that work and the building of good relations must continue in 2013.

“On Monday I think people will want to be calm, the tone of this meeting will be important. On December 3, after things calmed down the meeting finished to its end and that is what is important, for democracy to continue so that we as elected representatives discuss the key issues.”

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