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Council does double U-turn over 'Union flag'

The merchany navy flag flies from the Visitor Information Centre in Ballycastle Harbour yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus
Connla Young

A council yesterday flew a controversial naval ensign which includes the Union flag in a majority nationalist town despite a previous undertaking not to do so.

The merchant navy flag was hoisted from a visitor centre in Ballycastle harbour.

Members of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council were told of the decision late on Thursday evening by email, hours after a delegation of unionist politicians met with officials.

The council had previously said the flag would not be flown in Ballycastle or Limavady but would be hoisted in Coleraine and Ballymoney - neither of which are coastal towns.

It followed a request by Seafarers UK - a charity which helps former sea workers and their families – to mark ‘merchant navy day'.

Independent councillor Padraig McShane had threatened to take legal action, arguing that no flags should be flown in the borough until the council completes an equality impact assessment.

It was launched earlier this year after unionists voted to fly the Union flag on some council buildings, including its Ballycastle office, on every working day of the year.

Mr McShane last night claimed the council's actions “are contrary to the advice provided by the council's solicitor”.

He criticised unionist councillors and said legal action had begun.

“No-one here will be living under the jack boot of those who are hell bent on destroying community relations,” he said.

Solicitor Michael Brentnall, of Robert Murtagh and Company, said: “We will be commencing legal action in the coming days in relation to the council's decision to place the flag up in Ballycastle contrary to their position in the days prior to this."

However, DUP councillor John Finlay welcomed the flag move.

“It is regrettable a lone councillor on Causeway Borough Council felt unable to allow the service given by the merchant navy to be recognised in a fitting manner and sought to subjugate the democratic will of council with unnecessary threats,” he said.

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