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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
'No Union flag at new Ikea store'
Ikea artist's impression
Artist's impression shows Union and NI flags
Furniture giant Ikea has dismissed SDLP claims that it will erect Red Hand of Ulster and Union flags outside its new store in east Belfast.

The party said design plans for the Swedish furniture giant's first NI outlet featured the symbols.

It described the Holywood Exchange store as "an upmarket Orange hall".

However, Ikea has insisted that it was simply an artist's impression and only the Swedish flag would feature on the Belfast building.

SDLP Youth Chairman Gary McKeown said: "Artist plans for the new IKEA store quite clearly depict a union jack and a red-and-white Northern Ireland flag flying in full glory outside the proposed store.

"We are used to seeing these sorts of flags outside Orange Halls and flute band premises but not on multi-national furniture outlets.

"Whether this was intentional or merely an oversight, it is quite concerning that this sort of thing is happening.

"The Good Friday Agreement guarantees the right of people to see themselves as Irish or British or both, but IKEA doesn't seem to realise this. This is particularly worrying if they are seeking to recruit people from both sides of the community."

Sod cutting
SDLP ex-Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy cut the first sod on the site

However, Ikea said an elevation drawing of the Belfast store bearing the Swedish and Union flags was designed in the same style as all artists' impressions of new stores which feature both the Swedish flag and the flags of the country in which they will be operating.

A spokeswoman told the BBC News Website: "However, Ikea would like to reassure customers and co-workers that when the new Belfast store opens towards the end of the year only the Swedish flag will feature on the outside of the building.

"Ikea is looking forward to opening its first store in Ireland at Holywood Exchange and has been working closely with the Equality Commission to ensure best practice is in place and has developed an Employment Equality Plan which goes beyond basic legal requirements."

The new Ikea store is due to open in November.

Ikea gets go-ahead for city store
21 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland
Ikea to bring 400 jobs to Belfast
26 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
Retail giant Ikea plans NI store
25 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland

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