Derry and Strabane council becomes first to allow staff to wear Easter lily
DERRY City and Strabane District Council has become the first local authority to allow staff to wear the Easter lily at work.
Councillors yesterday adopted a sub-committee recommendation that the republican emblem of commemoration be afforded the same status as the armistice poppy.
The emblem, based on the white Lily flower, is traditionally worn by republicans at Easter to remember Irish men and women who died during the 1916 Rising and subsequent conflicts.
An SDLP proposal at the monthly meeting that staff be banned from wearing both the poppy and Easter lily – as well as all other emblems - until a dedicated policy is adopted was defeated.
Councillors were told the wearing of the lily or the poppy had not been an issue in the past.
The former Derry City Council banned all emblems, while Strabane District Council allowed the wearing of the lily although few workers did so.
SDLP council leader Martin Reilly said his party felt it should ensure a neutral working environment and should ban all emblems until a new policy is drawn up.
However, Sinn Féin member Michael Cooper claimed banning both the poppy and Easter lily would be a retrograde step and lack inclusivity.
“We want to add to the ability of people who want to wear the poppy and to allow staff who also want to wear the lily,” he said.
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DUP councillor David Ramsey claimed the Easter lily equated to the Orange lily while the poppy was internationally accepted, sometimes equated with the Irish shamrock.
“If we’re to start bringing in the local conflict emblems then we’re looking at a serious amount of emblems. We need to be very careful. Do you want ‘Ulster Says No’ emblems? Do you want ‘Drumcree’ emblems?” he said.
His party colleague Hilary McClintock said a trade union survey showed 72 per cent of members did not want any change.
However, independent councillor Paul Gallagher pointed out that only 60 of the trade union’s 352 members responded to the survey.
The SDLP proposal was defeated by 22 votes to seven, with nine councillors abstaining, before the council voted to adopt the sub-committee recommendation allowing staff to wear both the poppy and Easter lily.