Community consultation on flag-flying
FLAG-flying is to be at the forefront in Limavady again next week as a public consultation exercise is launched in the Glens and Coolessan estates on Tuesday. Flags have proved to be a controversial issue in Limavady in recent times.
In the past few years alone, local politicians have walked out of meetings, council business has been suspended and furious bust ups and spats have taken place inside and outside the council chamber – all over the issue of flag-flying throughout the Limavady Borough.
Residents of both the Glens and Coolessan estates will now have the opportunity to have their views heard as part of the public consultation into flag-flying in Limavady, due to be launched on Tuesday, October 9 from 9am to 6pm.
Perhaps the most prominent flags controversy occurred in the council chamber last summer, when TUV councillor Boyd Douglas disregarded council policy and produced a union flag and refused to remove it from his desk.
Council business was suspended on that evening last summer, which followed the appointment of Sean McGlinchey as Mayor of the Limavady Borough. Mr McGlinchey served time in jail for his role in a car bombing in Coleraine which claimed the lives of six people in 1973.
Back in 2009, DUP Alderman George Robinson walked out of a meeting of the town’s ‘flags forum’, furious at a proposal to fly a Tricolour in memory of a well known republican.
In 2010, Mr Robinson complained further about the flying of the ‘starry plough’ from a lamppost on the Ballyquin Road – a flag associated with the group responsible for one of the worst atrocities in the history of the Limavady Borough. At the time, Mr Robinson said that his DUP office in Limavady had been inundated with complaints.
He also called the flying of tricolours in Limavady “deliberately provocative, divisive and disrespectful” in 2009 during the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day.
More recently, calls from the current Mayor of Limavady, Sinn Féin councillor Cathal McLaughlin caused furore among the unionist community after issuing a statement to local newspapers calling for the town to be “cleansed” of all flags in a bid to resolve the issue once and for all.
The call for Limavady to be “cleansed” of flags, which enraged unionist councillors, followed on from work by his Mayoral predecessor and party colleague Sean McGlinchey, who worked for nationalist flags to be removed from the Glens Estate in the hope that unionist communities would reciprocate and remove loyalist flags from other areas of the town.
In May this year councillor McGlinchey said: “The Republican flags have now been removed and in future they will only be flown on designated days about eight or ten days a year. I would encourage the leaders of the Unionist community to follow our lead and address their flags issue in Bovally and the town centre.”
In August, current Mayor Cathal McLaughlin said that there are too many Unionist flags and Orange Order parades in Limavady, which he says is putting “the Borough at risk” and potentially undermining community relations.
Most recently, the DUP issued a statement just last month, congratulating the unionist community in Limavady for showing “leadership” after the removal of flags on the Edenmore and Greystone Roads following the end of the “bulk of the marching season”.
Now, Limavady Borough Council is running a community consultation for The Glens and Coolessan Estates on Tuesday, 9 October from 9am – 6pm.
The consultation will address issues surrounding flags within the two areas and will allow positive communication on the issue for all those involved. Questionnaires will be distributed to those in attendance to gauge public opinion and concerns.
Consultants from St Columb’s Park House Peace and Reconciliation Centre will be present at both estates to provide assistance and guidance to all those who choose to voice their views and opinions. All residents in these areas can support the consultation and participate in the flags discussion in their area.
Following this public consultation, focus groups will be held in both areas where all findings from the questionnaires will be presented to the community and discussed openly.
Sinead Barr, Good Relations Officer, Limavady Borough Council, said: “Council would like as many people as possible to attend these consultations and give their thoughts and feelings in relation to flags within their areas.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to have their voices heard; it’s your chance to provide the kind of information that will play a vital part in the success of this consultation process.”
Meanwhile, TUV councillor Boyd Douglas, who still displays a union flag emblazoned with his party logo at council meetings, has said that “a wee bit of common sense” is needed when it comes to flag-flying in Limavady.
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