First Minister’s father mounts defence of right to fly UK flag amid row

Councillor Alan Givan, the father of the First Minister, has mounted an impassioned defence of loyalists’ right to fly the national flag.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 8:50 am
Pictured at the Thaxton Road roundabout is councillor Alan Givan and alderman Paul Porter

His comments stem from a weeks-long dispute over the appearance of Union flags in an area just north of the strongly-unionist Ballymacash district of Lisburn – and specifically around the Thaxton Village roundabout.

Sinn Fein and Alliance figures have criticised the appearance of the emblems, which drew a stern rebuke earlier in the week from the Facebook page of the DUP’s Lagan Valley group which said: “The Alliance, SDLP, and Sinn Fein parties have no right to attempt to demonise this community. We all know that this is a culture war and all things which represent our Britishness are deemed offensive.”

Accompanying the post was a picture of councillor Givan and colleague Paul Porter with some of the flags.

Elaborating on the roots of the row, councillor Givan last night told the News Letter that “these flags have been put up here for as long as I could remember – I moved to Lisburn 43 years ago and I first lived in Ballymacash housing estate, and the place then was flags and bunting during the summer”.

Alliance councillor David Honeyford contended that the area in dispute “isn’t in Ballymacash, it’s near Thaxton and that roundabout is a shared, public space”, close to a newly-built housing development.

He said: “I have had well over 100 messages from people in that area from all backgrounds who just want to live and get on with their life without the need for this.”

Sinn Fein councillor Gary McCleave meanwhile said it was a “clear attempt to mark territory in the area” and to “intimidate”.

Stressing that the flags in question were not paramilitary in nature (but are rather Union flags and the Ulster banner, along with some flags for the local Ballymacash football team) councillor Givan said “it should be a threat to no-one to fly a national flag”, noting that this happens in the Irish Republic, on the continent, and across the world.

“It’s the national flag, and these people are loyal to the UK, and want to fly it,” he said.

“Now unfortunately we’re in a position nowadays it’s nearly a crime.

“Take for example in the council – you’ve only designated days to fly the flag, I think it’s 16 or 17 days a year.

“What other country in the world has that? If you went to America and said you’re only allowed to fly your flag on the White House 17 days a year, they’d probably burn the White House down!”

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