Flag flying needs to be above opinion in relation to the law

23 June 2017

Flag flying in Northern Ireland needs certainty in the law to place it above the opinion of individuals or groups, with agencies getting the full support of the community and all elected representatives when they uphold that law.

The Chair of the Community Relations Council Peter Osborne said the flying of flags could undermine reconciliation policy especially when it compromises the status of shared housing areas.

Peter Osborne said:

“There seems to be some confusion about the status of flags on lamp-posts in relation to the law.  There are existing laws such as those relating to proscribed organisations and actions likely to cause a breach of the peace.  There are existing laws such as trespass, civil and criminal damage and laws on harassment that apply, as well as conditional human rights under articles eight and ten.

I’m not sure if this is about uncertainty, but if there is confusion and a need for clarity then it must be provided to put the issue beyond individual, group or agency opinions.

Flags can intimidate or claim territory whether from a unionist or nationalist perspective.  Whatever the intention, whataboutery across the divide does not serve well our ambition to share this region and does not help public agencies in enforcing the law. 

We need to strengthen our commitment to reconciliation and strengthen good relations policies and strategies, not undermine them.  Actions that intimidate, that diminish the law or undermine the agencies tasked with upholding the law, are damaging to our shared future in this society.

I hope the work of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition will help us with this.  We need a united community, an agreed approach by all, whether community leaders or elected representatives, to support and uphold the law and promote good relations regardless of background or outlook.”

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