Cherry picker request leads to flags row

A request to use Council’s cherry picker to remove loyalist flags in Limavady turned into a heated exchange between councillors. 

TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas, who made the request at Tuesday’s Council meeting, said there had been a lot of media coverage about flags and parades in Limavady. He said the more coverage there was the more bother there was. Less coverage, he said, would mean less bother. He said flags had been put up in Limavady for the last 100-odd years and that’s how it was. The “flags issue” had been “overdone”, he said, going on to ask if Council’s cherry picker could be used to remove flags in the town because of health and safety concerns. He said the cherry picker had been used in Dungiven for the (Paul) McCloskey fight and it would be a positive on both sides if the cherry picker was allowed in this instance. 

Sinn Fein’s Anne Brolly said Council needed to lead by example, although she believed the borough should be neutral. She said Sinn Fein was working with people in the Glens, and a number of agencies including the Housing Executive and Council’s Good Relations in a bid to reach agreement about the Tricolour flying on designated days. 

“We hope that unionists would buy into that,” she said, adding it would tidy the town up and make it more welcoming for people who live, work and visit it. She believed both sections of the community should get one flag pole each. 

This prompted Ulster Unionist Jack Rankin to raise the matter of the Union flag not being allowed to be flown on designated days from the Council, but Colr. Brolly said that was because it was a public building, not a government building. 

DUP Colr. George Robinson said: “I want to say to anyone from the the nationalist community, there is no way in this world I will support the flying of the Tricolour. 

“This is part of Great Britain and the Union Jack is the flag of our country. I will never ever accept the flying of the Tricolour in this country!”

SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle told the chamber: “We are dividing our community and that’s something we don’t want to be doing.” 

He said year after year he fields complaints relating to the flags issue in Limavady. 

“We need to look at a way of dealing with flags,” he said. “The time will come when we are going to have to ask the silent majority of the public what they want and we may get a surprise.” 

Colr. Coyle said Council may have to employ some type of independent resource to ask people what they want. 

“I’ve been in politics a long time, but flags, parades and commemorations are an issue. It’s time we got our act together. Speak to each other and let Council take the lead and find out what people want.” 

The four unionist councillors voted in favour of using the cherry picker, while the seven Sinn Fein and SDLP members voted against it. 

Colr. Brolly added after the vote: “If they can put them up, they can take them down.”