New flag for Northern Ireland and bonfire among FICT report recommendations

A long overdue report on flags and culture in Northern Ireland recommended having a new flag or civic emblem for towns and communities.

Professor Dominic Bryan, chairman of the commission behind the report, confirmed that a new flag for Northern Ireland was among the 44 recommendations made.

The long overdue report is due for release on Wednesday afternoon.

Profession Bryan also said that recommendations had been made regarding the display of flags on streetlights, with a code of practice and designated time periods taken into account.

Regarding bonfires, Professor Bryan said the commission recommended changes to the law that would allow bonfires to take place “safely”, but said enforcement was still important.

He also expressed his frustrations over the parade issues. Saying that this was not part of his group’s remit, but since the parade was closely related to NI culture, they had to consider the issue as parades could form a part of various events, but they did not would not see the parade commission with which he had been involved. .

He said that viewing shared spaces as neutral spaces was “wrong” and that groups – especially in the Protestant community – did not believe they were in control of their rights and that all should receive training.

“The model here is not about neutralizing space … none of it is about restricting identity, it’s about creating diversity that gives us common strength.”

He said: “What we have here is, I hope, a model for how all of these events should be organized and how important it is that they are funded.”

He added: “We know there are things that divide us, we have to provide a sufficiently cohesive society to deal with them.”

The Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) Commission, which was established in 2016 and cost around £ 800,000, is due to release its full findings on Wednesday afternoon, but none of the recommendations of the report should not be implemented because no action plan has been agreed.

Established under then-prime ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, the commission was tasked with finding consensus on a number of contentious issues, but devolution collapsed before it could deliver its report.

Its findings were finally submitted to the executive last July, but were not made public.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said releasing the report without a plan of action was “outrageous”, while Sinead McLaughlin of the SDLP called it “shameful”.

Professor Bryan told the BBC Stephen Nolan Show that he was very interested in the potential of a new “civic flag” for Northern Ireland, but admitted there was no “global deal. “.

“It’s an option that is particularly close to my heart. I always thought our peace process needed us to find symbols that represent us in a contemporary way and represent Northern Ireland in a contemporary way, represent the things that we have been through, ”he said. -he declares.

“Some of our older symbols prevent us from doing this because they are emotionally charged.

“Although people wouldn’t immediately accept it, having a civic symbol or civic flag, whether it be the local councils that have it or Northern Ireland that has it.

“A civic flag is something that represents all of us in Northern Ireland, or a council flag so you can have a flag or symbol that represents Belfast or Derry / Londonderry.”

Professor Bryan said the report covered everything from education to language and media.

Regarding the flags hanging from the lampposts, he said the suggested recommendations did not get the agreement of those involved without “consensus”.

He added that they have come up with a code of practice with ideas on defined time periods that flags can be displayed.

“The argument was whether you have a designated period of time where you legally allow the flags to be put up and they have to go down during that period,” he said.

“There were also discussions about what kind of flags were being raised and how you handle that, so very clearly the issue of paramilitary flags. There was a consensus … paramilitary flags should not be flown on the lampposts.

Regarding bonfires, recommendations were made regarding changes to the legislation that would allow fires to be held legally.

“We recommended that changes be made to the legislation that allow bonfires to take place in a safe manner as a positive construction of people’s identity,” he said.

“We recommended law enforcement, but it’s important that we get the legislation. We don’t want to push the people who are having a reasonable commemoration or celebration into a position where they are breaking the law, when on the whole they are doing something that is very reasonable.

The commission was due to report within 18 months, although this was delayed by the collapse of institutions and again by the pandemic.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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