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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Tricolour raised in City Hall
Mr Maskey said it was a matter of equality
Mr Maskey said it was a matter of equality
Belfast's first republican lord mayor has unveiled a tricolour in his office at Belfast City Hall alongside the union jack.

The move has angered unionists in Northern Ireland, who have accused Alex Maskey of abusing his office.

However, Mr Maskey said it was a matter of equality and urged unionists councillors to grow up.

The former IRA prisoner Dickie Glenholmes presented the tricolour to the lord mayor in his parlour on Wednesday.


There is no doubt that the Irish tricolour is seen as a sectarian symbol

Sammy Wilson
DUP councillor

In an address, Alex Maskey told the media and Sinn Fein guests that the move was to balance the unionist symbols throughout the council.

The flag has been placed in the Lord Mayor's Parlour - just a few feet from the union flag.

"I think I am entitled to if not obliged to now have a sense of equality in the lord mayor's parlour by putting up the Irish national flag," said the Sinn Fein lord mayor.

"If anyone sees that as an insult I am sorry I cannot help them, but I am asking people to I see it as one step that I am taking to balance up these offices."

However, DUP councillor Sammy Wilson condemned the move.

"This is a lord mayor who talks about doing away with sectarianism and tackling sectarianism," he said.

Civic flag

"We see that his actions are totally to the contrary.

"There is no doubt that the Irish tricolour is seen as a sectarian symbol.

"It is used as a sectarian symbol and the lord mayor is not content to just put it up in his room, he must fly it in the face of the unionist population."

The row over flags is set to continue with the lord mayor calling for the union jack over city hall to be replaced with a civic flag of Belfast.

Last October, a court dismissed an attempt by Sinn Fein to prevent the flying of the union jack on certain days outside public buildings.

The Union Flag
The union jack is flown on designated days

Sinn Fein mounted a legal challenge to the Flags Order introduced by former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson allowing the union jack to be flown on 17 designated days.

The party argued that the order was contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and discriminated against nationalists.

The regulations were drafted after the failure of the province's power-sharing executive to agree a compromise on the issue.

This followed the refusal of Sinn Fein ministers Bairbre de Brun and Martin McGuinness to fly the flag on buildings occupied by their departments on designated days in the past.

The education and health ministers said they wanted the Irish tricolour to fly alongside the union jack otherwise no flag should fly at all.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Martina Purdy:
"The row over flags is set to continue"
BBC NI's Mark Simpson:
"The tricolour will be flown above the fireplace alongside the union jack"
See also:

13 Nov 00 | N Ireland
08 Sep 00 | N Ireland
02 Jun 00 | N Ireland
02 Jun 00 | N Ireland
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