Participants in Strabane’s St Patrick’s Parade will be free to carry Irish tricolours this year despite the council saying last week they would “not be included”, a unionist councillor says.
Up until now the parade has been independent and has traditionally carried Irish tricolours.
However, this year Derry City & Strabane Council has taken on responsibility and last week it appeared to say the event must abide by council policy and exclude political flags, as per the the annual Londonderry city parade.
The council said that “in keeping with the paper” approved by the council’s business and culture committee, the Strabane event will now be a cross-community celebration.
“Therefore flags and emblems will not be included in the official parade which is planned for the enjoyment of everyone.”
Sinn Fein had said that it would “seek the reversal of a decision” at the next meeting, which took place this evening, Monday.
However, UUP councillor Derek Hussey said that what actually happened was that Sinn Fein sought “clarification” from officials and were in turn told there was “no ban” on flags; just custom and practise in the main Londonderry parade of excluding political flags.
“The Mayor Maolíosa McHugh of Sinn Fein was chairing the meeting and then closed it immediately without allowing anyone else to contribute,” Mr Hussey said.
“The result is that Strabane parade participants can do what they like regards flags this year. No actual policy was ever written down and so Sinn Fein is driving a coach and horses through this.”
The council said: “While no action is planned to prevent the use of flags or emblems, their display could have an adverse impact on council’s ability to deliver the event effectively in the future.
“Council is working closely with all the groups involved to ensure the cross-community principles of the event are reflected in the parade.”
Sinn Fein councillor Karina Carlin said officials last week “announced publicly that there was a ban” on the tricolour but she was now pleased to receive confirmation that there is “no ban in place”.
Republican group Saoradh had condemned the decision not to include tricolours flags.