North's leaders fail to agree on flags issue


A meeting of the North’s five main political leaders at Stormont yesterday failed to agree on how to deal with the flags issue that has triggered disruption and violence in recent weeks.

DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness held talks with the Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, the SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell and Alliance leader David Ford but after 7½ hours the meeting was adjourned. It will reconvene in the New Year.

On Wednesday night Mr Robinson issued a statement saying the meeting should not just be for “discourse but must produce action . . . I will be asking the other leaders to initiate a formal review of the issue of flags and start a public consultation process as part of the review.”

But it was clear there had been no meeting of minds. The leaders were coming from opposing positions. Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt favoured a consultation on flags and emblems but it seemed apparent that this was resisted by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance.

After the meeting the leaders, who would make no comment, issued a short statement that illustrated the inconclusive nature of the talks.