The Council’s decision to ban the Tricolour and other flags and emblems applies to both its St Patrick’s Day parades in Derry city centre as well as Strabane, it has been confirmed.
Sinn Féin has said it will now seek a reversal of a decision taken by Council to bar the national flag from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Strabane on the national saint’s day, March 17, the party’s Councillor Karina Carlin has said.
Derry & Strabane Council has confirmed that the ban on flags and emblems applied to both its parades in Derry and Strabane.
The decision came to light after the ban was welcomed by UUP Councillor Derek Hussey amid plans to extend the St Patrick’s Day parade in Strabane.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “In keeping with the paper approved by the Council’s Business and Culture Committee the event will be a cross-community cultural celebration with a strong family friendly focus.
“Therefore flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone.
“Council is committed to promoting inclusion and integration within and between communities in all its activities, events and programmes.
“While no action is planned to prevent the use of flags or emblems, their display could have an adverse impact on Council’s ability to deliver the event effectively in the future.
“Council is working closely with all the groups involved to ensure the cross community principles of the event are reflected in the parade.”
She also confirmed that the same applied for the larger Derry Saint Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival parade.
Councillor Karina Carlin however said a proposal challenging this would be formally put at a meeting of the Council on Monday.
She said: “The national flag has always formed part of the celebrations in Strabane without any difficulty or controversy.
“We see no reason why that cannot continue and why the national flag cannot be carried as part of the official event to celebrate the national patron saint.
“Council officers made the decision that no flags should be included in the absence of a formal policy on flags and emblems which is not yet in place in this relatively new Council.
“However, as the history of this parade has shown, it is perfectly possible to run a genuinely inclusive and cross-community event where flags are carried in a respectful manner.
“Therefore, Sinn Féin’s proposal will seek the inclusion of the national flag in the official parade while also redressing the need for a Council policy on this issue going forward.”
UUP Alderman Derek Hussey however welcomed the stipulation regarding flags and emblems, but also raised concerns over and Irish cultural festival occurring over the same period.
Alderman Hussey said: “The symbolism and heritage of Patrick belongs to all and commemoration of his Feast Day therefore has the potential to bring citizens together in the associated events of celebration. Non-partisan participation in these events is something to be desired and should be encouraged though it must also be realised that the development of more representative community involvement is a long term project.
“The Council instruction that the ‘official’ events of the day would be flag free is welcome thought I often wonder at the absence of the Flag of St Patrick during the day’s events throughout the world and fail to understand why there are those who find it necessary to have the flag of the Republic of Ireland so prominently on display!
“Regrettably however, it is a great pity that our Council have now determined to also incorporate the commemorative events in Strabane into a proposed, so-called Irish Language Week, when a week becomes 17 days, opening on March 1 and concluding on March 17. Within this, the former ‘St Patrick’s Day’ in Strabane, with it’s Organising Committee standing down, is being rebranded within a Strabane Spring Festival that has seemingly morphed effectively into an Irish Language Fest in Strabane on March 17!
“In such a context I cannot envisage a tsunami of those from a PUL community background flowing into Strabane to be a part of this. Rather, the perception of Strabane being a ‘cold house’ for Protestants has been disappointingly enhanced and an opportunity to begin to address that perception cast aside.”