Loyalists hope to reduce tensions with new flag-flying guidelines

Loyalist Community Council announces new flag protocols for unionist areas

Loyalists hope to reduce tensions with new flag-flying guidelines

LCC member David Campbell, former loyalist prisoner Jim Wilson, UDA leader Jackie McDonald and PUP representative Winston Irvine launch new Somme flag | PA Images

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has welcomed a new set of protocols for the flying of loyalist flags in Northern Ireland.

The Loyalist Community Council (LCC) today announced new guidelines on the display of flags and emblems aimed at fostering “mutual respect”.

The organisation, which is backed by the North’s three main loyalist paramilitary groups, proposed a number of restrictions on flying what it called “highly potent symbols of community allegiances”.

"The LCC cannot enforce this protocol but appeals for its widespread adoption, and adherence to, in loyalist and unionist areas," it said.

The group went on to advise: “The national flags of the United Kingdom and of Northern Ireland should be displayed and flown in our communities in a respectful manner, in places where they will command such respect and not be used for provocative purposes, and they should be maintained in good order.

“In recognition and respect for the service and sacrifice of the 36th (Ulster) Division in this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, a special commemorative Ulster Division centenary flag has been produced by the LCC.

“This flag, which features the emblem, and battle honours of the Ulster Division, along with the national flag, will be erected on arterial routes in our communities subject to appropriate respect being shown in the vicinity of churches, schools, and other cross-community buildings.

“The Ulster Division flags will be erected during the month of June, 2016, in time for the July 1st centenary. They will be taken down promptly after Ulster Day, September 28th, 2016.”

The LCC also appealed on eleventh night bonfire organisers to respect public safety and ensure the security of local property.

'Greater climate of respect'

Mr Flanagan welcomed the announcement in a statement this evening.

"The display of flags and emblems in Northern Ireland is highly emotive and can at times be divisive, particularly in a society moving on from conflict,” he said.

“I commend the acknowledgement of the need for mutual respect, demonstrated in the development of the protocol, and look forward to these principles being put into practice.

"Discussions on how to build a greater climate of respect for differing traditions in Northern Ireland, and on how to build a shared society, based on parity of esteem, have been at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement and successive Agreements.

"Notwithstanding the progress made since 1998, the realisation that more must be done to develop a truly shared society informed much of our discussions in the Stormont House and Fresh Start talks.

“Those talks agreed the establishment of a Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition. I look forward to the Commission being established, and beginning its work, in the near future.”

The protocols were outlined as the LCC launched a new flag to commemorate the Battle of the Somme.

A spokesperson for the group said it hoped it would be the only flag that is flown along arterial routes in unionist areas, alongside the Union Jack and Ulster flag.