Mandelson offers deal over Union flag

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The Independent Online

The Union flag should fly above the departmental headquarters of Northern Ireland's two Sinn Fein ministers on designated days, Peter Mandelson proposed last night

The Union flag should fly above the departmental headquarters of Northern Ireland's two Sinn Fein ministers on designated days, Peter Mandelson proposed last night

The Northern Ireland Secretary stepped into one of the Province's most divisive debates by suggesting the Union flag be flown from seven government buildings on 17 days of the year. The buildings include the offices of Martin McGuinness's Department of Education at Rathgael House, Bangor, Co Down, and Castle Buildings, Stormont, where the Health Minister, Bairbre de Brun, is based. The Sinn Fein ministers previously refused to fly the flag because the Irish tricolour was not given equal status.

Mr Mandelson announced draft regulations after the Stormont Assembly failed to reach agreement on the matter. He has asked all sides to respond to his proposals by October 20. The Assembly is to set up a committee to consider the plan.

Mr Mandelson said: "I am proposing these regulations for consultation. There is no perfect solution to this issue, otherwise the parties and the executive would have found it.

"I recognise that what the Government is proposing is unlikely to fully satisfy either side, but it is a sensitivecommonsense way forward, which I hope everyone will take the time to consider."

The new proposals cut the number of days and number of buildings the Union flag would be flown from. They also allow for the Union flag to be flown on government buildings that the Queen or another head of state is visiting, alongside the other country's national flag, and for the European flag to be flown on Europe Day, 9 May.

Stormont itself is not included, but the buildings include the headquarters of the other government departments.

Among the days when Mr Mandelson has proposed the Union flag should be flown are St Patrick's Day (17 March), the Queen's birthday (21 April), Coronation Day (2 June) and Remembrance Day in November.

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