Special meeting to discuss controversial flag decision

Mid Ulster District Council will meet this Thursday to discuss the the local authority’s controversial decision not to fly the Union flag at half-mast following the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 11:44 am

The meeting was requested by DUP group leader, Councillor Paul McLean last week.

Confirming he had lodged the request, Councillor McLean said: “We requested the Union Flag be flown at half-mast to mark the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh but the Council Chairman has declined to comment.

“We disagree with this decision and have requested a meeting for the Chairman to explain to those in Mid Ulster who want to show their respect for the Duke of Edinburgh why this position has been taken.

Prince Philip admires the art in the new Gallery at Hillsborough Castle during his visit to present the Duke of Edinburgh Gold awards. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

“Unionists may only make up 15 of the 40 members but we have a right to be heard and to receive an explanation.

“It is extraordinary that the Sinn Fein speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly can have the Union Flag flying at half-mast on Parliament Buildings but here in Michelle O’Neill’s constituency another Sinn Fein councillor has refused to fly the Union Flag at half-mast as a mark of respect.”

Last week, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council acknowledged requests to fly the flag at half-mast had been received but explained why Council had refrained from doing so.

“While we have received requests to fly flags at half-mast, the Council currently has a ‘no-flags’ policy and so does not fly flags on any occasion,” said the spokesperson.

A spokesperson for Sinn Fein confirmed the decision was simply a matter of Council policy.

“It has been the policy of Mid Ulster District Council not to fly any flags since the Council’s creation in 2015,” said a spokesperson for the party.

Following confirmation of the special meeting, Councillor Clement Cuthbertson said it was “too late to right the wrong” but acknowledged the meeting would give elected representatives the chance to “voice their frustration”.

“While this special meeting of Council – called following my Party’s request under standing orders – is sadly too late to right the wrong of the Council’s decision not to fly the Union Flag as a mark of respect to HRH The Prince Philip, it does allow me and other elected representatives an opportunity to voice our frustration and anger at what has happened,” said Councillor Cuthbertson.

“This is not only my anger but also of those whom I represent.

“I have been inundated with calls from constituents who are appalled at Council’s attitude towards this matter.

“The decision has done immense harm to the confidence the Unionist community have in their local authority and has done irreparable damage to good relations on Council.”

Meanwhile, the meeting is also likely to discuss an incident that saw council offices in Cookstown defaced late last week.

On Thursday, April 15 Council’s Cookstown premises were daubed with the graffiti ‘FLY THE FLAG’, a move which has brought the condemnation of Council’s Chair, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan.

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