Key points on the flying of flags in Portadown were agreed at a “very positive” meeting.
According to the agreed protocol, arterial flags will be erected from June 1 onwards in preparation for the main marching season, and taken down by the end of the first week of September.
Particular areas which may be deemed contentious have delayed start dates for flags going up.
Meanwhile, community flag poles are to be erected at agreed locations for “respectful flying” of the flag all year round, while commemorative occasions will be limited to flags flying for the duration of the event or one week at most.
The meeting, organised by the Regenerate group, was attended by all shades of political unionism, along with representatives of community and cultural organisations, the council, Housing Executive and PSNI.
John Stevenson of Regenerate said some final touches are being put to the protocol following last week’s public consultation but that all reaction on the night was very positive.
“The protocol is now in place for this year, subject to revision and review annually,” he said. “This is a genuine attempt at building community morale and more importantly, restoring respect to how we as a community display our colours.
“All the credit must go to the people, young and old, from areas all over the town, who drafted the flag protocol and offered it up to public scrutiny with the help and assistance of Regenerate.
“Our community has been appealing for years on unionist unity and for leadership on issues that bind us together. They have seen at this public meeting that the will and the leadership is there.”
Addressing the issue of contentious areas, the protocol states that those involved will review these areas annually and give “measured and thorough consideration of the area, time and process”.
It adds, “The aim is to promote the values of the PUL (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist) community, culture and history whilst respecting and valuing people from other community backgrounds; this will be done whilst ensuring no dilution of the pride and respect of the flying of the union and Ulster flag/s.”
Issues around the removal of the arterial flags are also addressed, among them a lack of co-ordination and the sense that the task can feel like a chore.
The protocol proposes a ‘pride in place’ community award, presented to the area which has best presented, maintained and removed flags.
The process will end with a celebration event in each area, such as a family fun day, at which volunteers will be acknowledged.
To ensure effective co-ordination, all the main groups will use a street map to clarify who is taking responsibility for each area.
Mr Stevenson said he hoped the “unity of purpose’ on display will enable Regenerate to address other issues, including education and community cohesion, empowerment and employment.