Flags protocol faces Kernan test

Flags have been erected on lamposts at the Craigavon Area Hospital Roundabout. INPT23-218.
Flags have been erected on lamposts at the Craigavon Area Hospital Roundabout. INPT23-218.

The recently agreed flags protocol is facing its first test with a request to take down flags at the hospital roundabout.

An employee of the hospital, who describes herself as a member of the Protestant community, wants the flags removed as she believes the hospital is a neutral place.

The community development group Regenerate, which drew up the protocol for Union and loyalist flags in association with community groups and individuals, is to consider the request at a meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

The hospital worker, who contacted the Portadown Times and wishes to remain anonymous, said the flags were intimidating for staff, patients and visitors.

She said, “The hospital doesn’t ask what religion anyone is when they come through the door to be treated.

“I read the story in the paper about the flags protocol and I was pleased to see it. There is a start and an end to the flags going up and coming down.

“I believe in live and let live.

“There are plenty of places and sections of road where the flags can go up but the hospital should not be one of them.”

She added, “I don’t feel it’s fair on colleagues from the other side of the fence, and visitors, to have to drive past all the flags at the roundabout. I think we need to treat all our citizens with respect.”

Keith McCann of Regenerate said there is a mechanism built into the protocol to look at contentious issues such as this.

He said, “Regenerate are meeting on Saturday and I will certainly put it on the agenda.

“We will speak to the people who put the flags up in the Kernan area and see if there is an accommodation that can be worked through.

“This is a pilot project, which is based on self-regulation, and there will be challenges and difficulties ahead but we will learn from them.

“We have made significant progress to date.

“I would urge this lady who has misgivings about the flags to contact us, in confidence, so we can establish exactly what her reservations are and if a compromise can be reached.

“She can email us with her views to regener8@outlook.com.”

Flags have gone up across Portadown in recent days, in accordance with the protocol, which stipulates that they should go up from June 1 onwards and be taken down by the end of the first week in September.