Tentative discussions have begun with a view to re-establishing the guidelines for the flying of the Union flag in Lisburn.
The UPRG recently held a consultation meeting to discuss the issue and expressed its concern that some flags were being left to hang in tatters from lampposts in the city.
Following the meeting a spokesperson for the UPRG explained: “The UPRG in Lisburn are trying to bring about an initiative in the city which will hopefully help matters and put some pride back into our National flag and others and try and bring about more public support and interest at key times of the year.
“Whilst most areas of Lisburn have stuck to the two month time scale to take into account July 1 and the Somme commemorations up to August for the Black Day processions, others haven’t, and right now all over the city we can see evidence of flag abuse, where flags have been left to fly all year round and subsequently deteriorate.”
The group has held consultations into the issue, with representatives from various community groups, political parties and the business community hearing options on a way forward.
The UPRG has emphasised that this initiative is not about removing flags from Lisburn but rather about ensuring the city is properly decorated for a set period each year. “There cannot be any confusion over this, it will be a positive for Lisburn and will allow the Unionist community to get ahead for once and show some leadership on what is a contentious issue to some,” continued the UPRG spokesperson,
The group intend to produce a document on their proposals in the coming weeks, which they hope will receive the support of the local community.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed the initiative by the UPRG. “I am happy to meet and discuss with anyone the need for a flags protocol,” said Mr Donaldson.
“Presently the Union Flag flies 365 days a year at the War Memorial in Lisburn City Centre and I believe there could be no more appropriate place that demonstrates respect for our national flag and for those who have served our country under that flag.”
However, concerns have already been raised by a group calling themselves the ‘Lisburn Peoples Protest’ (LPP), who issued an open letter to the UPRG expressing their concern at any moves to remove the Union Flag from the city.
“The LPP has erected and maintained these flags in protest to our British and cultural identity being stripped from us by blood soaked nationalists,” the group said.
“We, the LPP, have not put these flags up to intimidate residents, but to persuade these so called unionist parties to start taking back what is rightfully ours. We will also not be intimidated by any groups to remove these flags.”
The protest group have also called on Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council to vote on a new flag protocol which would see the Union Flag being flown throughout the year at the council building. Currently the flag is only flown on designated days.
The LPP have said that if the council will fly the flag 365 days a year, they will remove the flags they have erected in the city.
A spokesperson for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said they were currently developing a protocol for flag flying, which will include an equality impact assessment.
“In the meantime the former council policies, both from the former Lisburn City Council and the former Castlereagh Borough Council, currently apply.
“The former Lisburn City Council’s provisions state that the union flag is flown at the civic offices on the designated days in accordance with the Department of the Environment guidelines. Along with July 1 and July 12, there is provision to fly the appropriate flag on other exceptional occasions deemed suitable by the Mayor. The union flag is flown in the former Castlereagh Borough Council area, on council facilities, 365 days per year.”