Farry says Alliance will not discuss flags while violence continues
December 11, 2012 8:29 PM
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry has said that his Party will not discuss the issue of flags in the current context of violence, threats and illegal protests. His comments come after the Unionist Parties criticised Alliance for not agreeing to discuss a proposal to increase the number of days that the Union Flag is flown at Stormont.
Stephen Farry MLA said: "The Alliance Party believes that it would not only be inappropriate but counter-productive for the Assembly Commission to discuss the flags issue in the current context of violence, threat of violence and illegal protests. Indeed, we had asked the Speaker to postpone the meeting in light of on-going illegal protests, violence and threats to elected representatives.
"Politicians of any party must not be seen to respond to violence or intimidation such as the attempted murder of a police officer in East Belfast, but should rather have the space to take decisions in the line with key commitment in our political process that all outcomes will be determined by purely peaceful and democratic means.
"Alliance is concerned that the dispute around flags in Belfast City Council is now being transported to the Northern Ireland Assembly where that issue has been settled and accepted for a decade. In that intervening time, no attempt was made to change the policy. Now, there is a headlong rush to change that policy in the face of violence and unrest.
"We worked for months on the CSI Working Group insisting that a robust flags policy be included in the Shared Future strategy. Regrettably the DUP and UUP rejected this out of hand and indeed their refusal was one of the reasons why Alliance withdrew from the discussions.
"The Alliance Party wants to see the delivery of a robust flags policy that ensures the respectful display of flags and emblems in a way that reflects the diversity in our community and a shared future for all. We are willing to engage with all other parties on this situation to explore if and where any changes to the flags policy on public buildings are appropriate. However, that process will not be helped by blocs emerging with fixed and pre-determined positions."