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Nationalist anger at decision to fly Union flag

Causeway Coast and Glens UUP councillor Norman Hillis
Connla Young

A decision by a new supercouncil to fly a Union flag all year round in a mainly nationalist town has been criticised.

The new Causeway Coast and Glens council voted to fly the Union flag at nine locations across the borough including the mainly nationalist town of Ballycastle last week.

A motion had called for the flag will be flown on working and designated days from town halls and council offices across the district.

It is expected the flag will also be flown from Sheskburn House in Ballycastle, the former headquarters of Moyle District Council which had a no-flags policy before it merged with Limavady, Coleraine and Ballymoney councils earlier this year.

The flag move has prompted an angry response from nationalists who have threatened to take legal action to block it.

Independent councillor Padraig McShane claimed that a group of nationalists, including businessmen and community workers, have met to discuss their response.

"Bigotry, racism and ultimately supremacy spurred on by the influence of the Orange Order remain the driving forces that allowed the entire unionist family in the chamber to support the motion to impose the Union flag on Ballycastle," he said.

"It is now up to republicans alongside others locally to provide leadership where none exists in the council.

"The Orange Order via its influence in the Causeway Coast and Glens has picked a fight it is destined to lose."

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Norman Hillis, who tabled the flag motion, welcomed the development.

"Are you going to have different charges for rates, for bins, are you going to have different policies for different areas, we have said no," he said.

"We are not saying that is Protestant town or that is a nationalist town. If you are going to have a policy it has to be equitable throughout an area."

The unionist councillor said that ratepayers in Ballycastle have benefited from reduced bills as a result of the recent council merger.

"I didn't hear anybody complaining about that," he said.

A spokeswoman for Coleraine Borough Council: "Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has made a decision to survey council facilities and will bring back (sic) to the chamber for discussion.

"An equality impact assessment will be made as and when required."

The Orange Order declined to comment.

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