Councils have key role in resolving flags dispute

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MAGHERAFELT Sinn Fein Councillor Sean McPeake led a delegation of Local Government officials to meet US diplomat Dr Richard Haass following yesterday’s cross-party meeting in Belfast.

Speaking afterwards Mr McPeake - NILGA President - said local government had a role to play in solving the difficulties surrounding flags, protests and parades.

The delegation consisted of the five NILGA office bearers, representing the major parties at local government level.

“We believe that local government has a key practical, civic leadership role in dealing with the difficult issues being considered, working in partnership with our colleagues at the Assembly,” said Mr McPeake.

“With the impact of Dr Haass’ work being felt most keenly at a local level, local elected members and councils must be treated as partners in this work. We do not underestimate the difficulties and the sensitivities of the issues that require to be addressed and local government is willing to play its part in resolving those issues.

“This is an unprecedented time of change in local government, the biggest for 40 years, with a change to numbers, structure, governance arrangements and functions of councils, and we have encouraged Dr Haass to ensure that the eventual recommendations from this work, provide clarity with clear and strong direction, whilst taking account of local identity.

“The forthcoming local government and planning legislation will provide opportunities to enshrine equality and good relations in the new council arrangements from the outset. To do this we also need a considerable, well resourced, capacity building programme in order to put back, what forty years of removed democratic control of functions has eroded for the local government sector.”