Alliance party seeks flag regulation
The flying of national flags from lampposts in Northern Ireland should be subject to state regulation, with zero tolerance of paramilitary symbols, a new community relations blueprint from the Alliance party has recommended.
The proposals also call on the Stormont Executive to agree to fly the union flag from public and civic buildings on designated days.
The introduction of that policy at Belfast City Hall triggered the loyalist protests that have been witnessed in Northern Ireland over the last two months.
The call for an agreed stance on the Union flag and the introduction of statutory rules on when and how all national flags can be flown on highways form one part of Alliance’s vision for the future.
The party claims it has produced the document in response to Executive inaction on community relations, citing the much-delayed Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy.
Last year the party withdrew from an Assembly group examining the strategy, insisting the issue was not being dealt with properly.
Its own version of the strategy has set an aspiration to see at least one in every five children educated in an integrated school by 2020.
The blueprint also recommends:
* a 20% reduction in peace line structures within ten years, with a further 30% removed within 15 years.
* that mixed housing should be considered the norm in Northern Ireland by 2025, with the implementation of programmes to eliminate threats and intimidation levels in certain areas.
*the setting up of an Executive working group to deal with the issue of parades, with the aim of establishing a mechanism for binding arbitration.
*a cross-party talks process to reach agreed arrangements for dealing with the past.
*Alliance Party leader David Ford called for all the parties at Stormont to commit immediately to an “open and inclusive process” to deliver an effective strategy.
“Building a shared future in Northern Ireland is the biggest challenge facing our political institutions and wider civic society,” he said.
“This challenge has been clear for many years, but has now been brought into even sharper focus by recent events on our streets.
“Continued divisions in our society impact upon people in many ways, including how we live, how we learn, how we work and how we play. These divisions bring significant human, social, economic and financial costs.
“By contrast, the creation of a shared future would provide better opportunities for all and significantly assist the development of our economy.”