Sinn Fein object after 'Union Jack' Olympic flag flies

SINN Fein Councillor Johnny McGibbon has written a letter of protest to the NI Equality Commission after the organisation said it had no grounds for objecting to the UK Olympic Flag flying over Craigavon Civic Centre for four hours on Sunday.

The hoisting of the flag climaxed a long-running council saga when council members were given the choice of two flags to fly. Both contained the British Olympic 'lion' logo, with one incorporating the Union Flag and the other plain blue and purple.

Despite legal advice that the Union Flag design would go against council policy on flags - which was worked out in conjunction with the commission a couple of years ago - unionists voted in favour of going ahead, while nationalists and republicans voted against.

Mr McGibbon originally proposed the plain design, pointing out that no equality assessment had been carried out. And he also stated that the council's own solicitor had advised against the Union Flag design, as it went against council policy.

But unionists referred to a statement from the Equality Commission that they had no issue with flying the Olympics Flag that incorporated the Union Flag colours.

The statement added that it would be for a short duration on a day that the Civic Centre was closed as that it related to the wider issue of the Olympics Games in which Northern Ireland took part.

Alderman Arnold Hatch, the unionist member who hoisted the flag which incorporated the Union Flag, said, "This is typical Sinn Fein. They are totally opposed to all things British, and when the commission - which usually finds in their favour - opposes them for once, they react like spoilt children."

"It was an eminently sensible judgement from the commission and highlighted the bigoted stand taken by Sinn Fein. The performance of the UK Olympics team has been phenomenal, with 19 gold medals, 13 silver and 15 bronze - a total of 47 - and everyone with the country's sporting prowess at heart should be rejoicing."

But Mr McGibbon said, "I am extremely disappointed at the unionist parties in the council. With an opportunity to show leadership and send out a signal to the nationalist and republican community that the council is open to everyone, they failed to rise to the challenge.

"Despite the advice of the borough solicitor they proceeded, by vote, to fly a flag which clearly incorporates the Union Flag. Both the UUP and DUP have ignored council's legal advice, when a clear alternative flag was available."