Sinn Féin take Union flag legal challenge

Union flag
Union flag

Sinn Féin are taking the first steps in a legal challenge to plans to fly the Union flag from the Limavady council offices and the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre.

A flag flying policy was recently agreed at the Causeway Coast and Glens Council that would see the Union flag flown at the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, where the old town hall once stood, 365 days of the year.

Announcing the legal challenge, Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan described the recently agreed flags policy as “ludicrous” and accused unionist councillors of “looking after their narrow sectional interests”.

The flags policy would also see the flag flown from the Limavady council offices on the basis of ‘working days and designated days plus, including any others day at the discretion of the Chief Executive’, which means it would be flown throughout most of the year.

The policy was agreed in spite of opposition from nationalist councillors.

Sinn Féin have announced, however, that they intend to test the legality of the flag flying proposal by invoking a ‘call in’ of the decision under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.

Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan announced the legal challenge, saying: “The local government act allows for 15 per cent of councillors to challenge any council decision that has a negative impact on any section of the community.

“The decision to fly the Union flag on council buildings in places like Ballycastle, Limavady or elsewhere has an impact particularly on the Republican/Nationalist community but also on any citizen in this Borough who can express common sense.

“Even fair minded unionist citizens in places like Ballycastle and Limavady that previously flew no flags can see that.

“It is a ludicrous decision and one taken by unionist councillors who are clearly looking after their narrow sectional interests here, rather than the best interests of the whole council area and all its citizens.

“We have proposed that no flags are need to fly on any council buildings which should be a neutral and welcome environment for staff to work in and for visitors to visit.

“We have stated our position that we will attempt to challenge this ludicrous attempt to fly the Union flag on council buildings and this is the first step in that challenge.

“This ‘call in’ that Sinn Féin will instigate will force the Council to test this decision legally.”

The Local Government (Northern Ireland) Act 2014 makes provision for 15 per cent of the members of the council to ask for a decision to be reconsidered on the grounds that it was either arrived at without “proper consideration of the relevant facts and issues” or that it would “disproportionately affect adversely any section of the inhabitants of the district.”