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BBC NI's Mandy McAuley reports:
"Flag row as celebrations of the Queen Mother's 100th birthday are held"
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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK
Trimble joins Union Flag row
Protesters picket Department of Health
Protesters picketed the Department of Health
First Minister David Trimble has written to the Northern Ireland secretary requesting that the Union Flag should be flown on all government buildings.

News of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's letter emerged as loyalist protesters heckled Sinn Fein health minister Bairbre de Brun outside her Stormont offices because she refused to fly the Union Flag over her department to mark the Queen Mother's 100th birthday.

David Trimble appeals to higher authority on flags issue
David Trimble appeals to higher authority on flags issue
About 20 people took part in the picket organised by the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party as the minister left the Department of Health offices on Friday morning.

In Bangor, County Down, a group of loyalist protesters put up a Union Flag outside the offices of Sinn Fein education minister Martin McGuinness at his department's Rathgael House headquarters.

Another group of PUP protesters demonstrated at government buildings in Adelaide Street in Belfast city centre, where the Union Flag was flying above two of the government buildings in the street.

Protestors held up posters showing the faces of Ms de Brun and Mr McGuinness printed on a Union Flag.

The Union Flag was not hoisted over Department of Education buildings.

The posters also showed the face of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party agriculture minister Brid Rodgers.

PUP assemblyman Billy Hutchinson
Billy Hutchinson: "Ministers need to recognise British state"
The PUP's Billy Hutchinson criticised Sinn Fein ministers over their refusal to fly the Union Flag.

"These people cannot even recognise that we have a monarch who's 100 years old and they can't even fly the flag, just because they think that everything that is British is no good," he said.

"These people forget that they have lived in Britain all their lives, most of them. They weren't even born at Partition (of Ireland)."

He added that Sinn Fein's ministers should accept that they were "British ministers in a British state".

'Protests sectarian'

However, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey condemned the protests as "intimidating and sectarian".

He said Sinn Fein's position on the flying of flags was designed not to cause offence.

Bairbre de Brun
Bairbre de Brun was also targeted by protesters on Thursday
"Where British cultural and political symbols are invoked in public life, equivalent Irish cultural and political symbols should be given equal prominence. Where this cannot be agreed, no such symbols should fly," he said.

The issue of flags has been emotive and divisive in Northern Ireland.

The Sinn Fein ministers angered unionists on 2 May by ordering their civil servants not to fly the flag as part of the Coronation Day celebrations.

The row reached a head when the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party attempted to guarantee the flying of the Union Flag with an assembly motion in June.

However, the party failed to win enough support for their motion to be passed.

The Union Flag is fown on designated days
There are about 13 days in the year when the Union Flag is flown on designated government offices in the United Kingdom.

Government buildings across the UK - from Whitehall ministries to town council offices are expected to raise the Union Flag on these days.

It is the second time in a week that the health minister has run into controversy.

On Wednesday, she was confronted by angry loyalist protesters during an official visit to a County Antrim hospital.

Around 20 demonstrators picketed the Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn, while she was on a visit to see a GP scheme as part of a programme to learn about aspects of the health service.

The tyres on the minister's car were let down and an egg was thrown. Ms de Brun was forced to leave the complex by another door.

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Tension over flag flying
02 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein criticised over flag stance
04 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
SF expulsion motion fails
28 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Anti-Sinn Fein school walkout
06 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
DUP flags motion defeated
02 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalists protest at hospital visit
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