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Finance minister orders union flag to be removed from his offices

Department of Finance offices at Clare House in east Belfast.

FINANCE Minister, Maírtin Ó Muílleoir has ordered the Union flag be removed from his east Belfast offices.

The minister ordered the flag be removed from his departmental offices at Clare House, on the Airport Road in Belfast's Harbour estate on Monday, in what may be one of his last decisions as minister with the assembly on the verge of collapse.

The building is not on the list of designated buildings, and therefore there is no suggestion that the minister breached protocol.

However, the union flag had been flown from the building on designated days by previous officials and had been flown on several occasions since the Sinn Féin MLA and businessman took office just over six months ago, including four dates in November.

The flag had been flown on a number of government buildings across Northern Ireland on Monday to mark the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge, which is listed as a designated day on the government's official guidelines.

The minister is said to have asked for the flag to be removed, his decision coincided with the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in protest at the refusal of Arlene Foster to stand aside during an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) scheme.

Earlier in the day an irate Mr Ó Muílleoir gave an interview during which he reacted angrily to the decision my DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan to remove a £50,000 Líofa bursary for young people attending the Gaeltacht.

Mr Ó Muílleoir said the decision highlighted the DUP's "disrespect for the nationalist tradition" adding it was the "straw that broke the camels back".

A Department of Finance spokesperson said: "The Flags Regulations (NI) 2000 provided a list of government buildings in which the Union flag shall be flown on the days specified.

"As Clare House is not included in this list the minister instructed officials to remove the flag".

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