Union jack

Showdown in Belfast flag flap

Battle lines have been drawn in Belfast ahead of next Monday's flag vote at City Hall. On Friday, Sinn Féin and the SDLP joined forces at the Strategic and Policy Resources Committee at Council to vote in favor of removing the Union Flag or "Jack" as it is typically called, from the dome of Belfast City Hall for the first time in the building's 106 year history.

Eleven nationalist councilors voted in favor while nine unionists voted against change.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The proposal will now go to the full council meeting on Monday, Dec. 3.

At present, nationalists are two short of an overall majority at council following gains in last May's election.

The Alliance party hold the balance of power and they have already said that they want the flag to come down and only to be flown on 17 designated days in the year, like Remembrance Day and the Queen's birthday.

Unionists are expected to step up their campaign in the coming days to force Alliance to vote in favor of flying the flag 365 days a year.

Sinn Féin Councilor Jim McVeigh said last Friday's committee vote was an important step in making Belfast City Hall an inclusive place.

The Falls Road councilor said: "Sinn Féin wants to see a City Hall that is inclusive and

welcoming to every citizen and every tradition.

"The Union Jack is associated with one tradition in this city and is often used to exclude and intimidate others. The decision of the Strategic and Policy Resources Committee today to end the policy of flying the Union Jack is an important step in making Belfast City Hall an inclusive place."

SDLP Councilor Tim Attwood also praised the decision. He said the proposal put before the committee was designed to promote a shared space and present City Hall as a civic center for all the people of Belfast, "and as such, we voted to support it.

"With the decision now having been taken, we look forward to full Council in December, where we hope other parties will continue to join with us, in supporting a City Hall that is truly shared by all people of Belfast."

In last May's council election Sinn Féin returned as the largest party on the council with 16 seats. The SDLP have eight seats. That leaves the combined total of nationalist councilors just two short of the overall majority.