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Alliance proposes unauthorised flag regulation

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle. Picture by Arthur Allison.

Alliance has called for a licensing regime for flags in public places with sanctions against those who fail to abide by proposed regulations.

In a series of suggested measures to curb the scourge of unauthorised flags, Alliance advocates a two-week limit on displaying flags, alongside a bond system to ensure compliance.

East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle said the party had taken the initiative because government agencies had failed to address the issue.

In addition to limiting the period flags can be displayed, Alliance would like to a ban on those that incite hatred or are linked to illegal organisations.

Mr Lyttle said people were entitled to fly flags to celebrate and commemorate an event, provided they were lawful.

"However, their unofficial and aggressive display is often used to mark territory, which has been a recurrent source of tension in many areas and is a significant barrier to ensuring public space is shared and free from intimidation, as well as limiting community and business development," he said.

The Alliance MLA said recent official statistics showed three out of four people did not support flag-flying in their neighbourhood. He said staff from the Department for Regional Development, which is in charge of lampposts, had been unable to remove flags due to threats of violence.

"As a result, many complaints go unaddressed, with the implicit result that violence defines outcomes," Mr Lyttle said.

The Alliance proposals were welcomed by the SDLP, which itself has been calling for the regulation of flags in public places.

South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna said her only issue with the proposals was that they could have been "more ambitious".

"Any rational and constructive engagement around flags is positive and I would share Chris Lyttle's aims," the SDLP representative said.

"I've been looking at what form the legislation might take in the next mandate and I think we need to be more ambitious around protection of shared space alongside enforcement."

:: The 'Celebration Not Demarcation' consultation document is available on the Alliance website.

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