‘Pride’ flag row still rumbles on

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A confidential meeting on flying the Rainbow Flag in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area descended into name-calling on Tuesday night.

The secret meeting was to discuss legal advice on the DUP Call-In which led to a successful Sinn Fein motion to fly the Pride flag being rescinded.

Councillor Mark Baxter

Councillor Mark Baxter

Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle branded the DUP ‘homophobic’ during the meeting - which Cllr Baxter said was ‘abusive language’.

Both DUP and SF are citing a victory after the meeting.

Portadown SF Cllr Paul Duffy described the DUP call-in over the rainbow flag as ‘devoid of merit’.

However Cllr Baxter said the DUP’s position has been ‘totally vindicated in terms of the procedure regarding flying flags and emblems’.

Cllr Duffy said: “The legal advice demonstrates clearly that the call-in was devoid of merit, a time-wasting exercise by the DUP. Flying the Rainbow flag had the potential to hurt, damage and offend no one. It was not contrary to current policies. Flying it would have had no adverse impact on other communities. The DUP’s sole intention in enacting this call-in was to block the flying of the Rainbow flag.

“This offensive stunt owed everything to the DUP’s continued denial of rights to our LGBT community and symptomatic of its denial of language rights, marriage rights, women’s rights and the rights of victims of the conflict. In calling the motion in the DUP rolled us back from a progressive step.

“We will be bringing forward a motion to ensure the Pride Flag flies proudly from our civic buildings next year.”

Cllr Baxter said: “The legal advice was abundantly clear that procedure hadn’t been followed and no equality impact assessment could be carried out in terms of flying a flag other than the national flag from official council flag poles.

“This was no fault of officers in Council but rather the political stunt from Sinn Fein in bringing such an ill-prepared motion to the floor with virtually no notice (a point which also emphasised in the legal advice).

“Councillor Mackle even suggested that next time we are in this position that we use a different QC because he wasn’t happy with the advice.

“As we stated quite clearly from the outset, due process was not followed and, frankly, Cllr Mackle would be better served urging his party to end their boycott of Stormont and dealing with real issues instead of using minority groups in some vain attempt to garner votes .

“In addition Cllr Macke should reflect on his aggressive behaviour when the legal advice was presented. To shout across the chamber using abusive language directed at our party is not befitting of an elected representative.”