The Department of the Environment has confirmed that its minister, Mark H Durkan ensured that Northern Ireland will not carry the Union flag on new driving licences.
Announcing the changes for drivers in England, Scotland and Wales recently, transport secretary Claire Perry said: “British motorists will soon be able to fly the flag with pride.”
It was revealed in recent days that the North will be excluded from having the British ‘Union flag’ on new licences.
The Department of the Environment (DOE) and SDLP both revealed it was their Minister who took a decision not to follow Britain’s lead.
A DOE spokesman said Department for Transport (DfT) Ministers wrote to the Environment Minister Alex Attwood in 2012 to inform him of the changes.
“Driver licensing is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland and is the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment,” he said.
“The DfT letter recognised the particular sensitivities surrounding symbols here and proposed retaining a separate production line for Northern Ireland driver licences, which are produced under contract by DVLA in Swansea.
“Following consideration of the DfT letter, it was decided not to proceed with any change to the Northern Ireland driver licence.”
An SDLP spokesman confirmed that the matter is devolved and “falls within the responsibility of the Environment Minister”.
He added: “There is no pressing case for introducing changes to the Northern Ireland driving licence and the Minister has rightly chosen to avoid politicising the issue by retaining the current design.”
Unionists are annoyed at Mr Durkan’s move.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson accused the SDLP of trying to ‘whitewash’ British identity.
He said that he does not believe the matter is actually one for Stormont, adding that he will be going over the local minister’s head to appeal the decision.