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BBC NI political correspondent Mark Simpson:
"The flags issue has divided the Stormont executive from the start"
 real 28k

Friday, 8 September, 2000, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Committee to discuss flag flying
Flag flying above Stormont
The issue of flag flying has sparked controversy
The Northern Ireland Assembly is set to appoint a new all-party committee to discuss the flying of flags.

Flag flying has become an emotive and divisive issue between republicans and unionists.

The creation of the new commitee will be discussed when the assembly resumes in full session on Monday, following the summer recess.

Sinn Fein's education minister Martin McGuinness and health minister Bairbre de Brun have refused to fly the Union Flag from their departmental buildings.

Unionists have complained and every effort to find a policy that suits all parties has so far failed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson is drawing up new regulations.

The all-party committee at Stormont is to be formed to see if they can finally come to an agreement.

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 Union Flag
The Union Flag is flown on designated days
Sinn Fein have said the flag of the Irish Republic, the tricolour, should be flown alongside the Union Jack outside public buildings.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the First and Deputy First Ministers, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon are heading to Washington on Tuesday for talks at the White House later next week.

They are expected to use the occasion to invite US President Bill Clinton to make a third visit to Northern Ireland, this time to see devolution in action.

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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
04 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble joins Union Flag row
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