Mid Ulster District Council has rejected a DUP motion calling on the council to amend its policy on the flying of the Union flag at its buildings.
Councillor Clement Cuthbertson proposed the council amend the policy to “accommodate occasions when the Union flag should be flown with other local authorities across the UK, in instances of national significance and in order to show support and respect to victims of terrorism and other significant atrocities.”
Speaking after the motion was defeated, Councillor Cuthbertson said he was “extremely disappointed” at the attitude towards his proposal at the monthly meeting.
“I do question the sincerity of the words of condemnation I have heard tonight of the recent acts of terrorism as they are not supported by a strong outward demonstration of sympathy,” he said.
“This lack of willingness to display a prominent support alongside the lack of condemnation for past acts of terrorism, such as the devastating IRA bomb on June 15 1996 in Manchester city centre injuring 212 people, leads me to think of the phrase ‘hollow words’. And to ask the question, where is the equality, respect and understanding in this decision.”
But Sinn Féin group leader Ronan McGinley described the DUP motion as ‘opportunistic’.
“Many people from Mid Ulster have contacted me regarding Councillor Cuthbertson’s motion, stating how disappointed they are at what they are calling an ‘opportunistic’ move by the councillor,” he said.
“The recent attacks in England should be condemned, and they have been by me and my colleagues in Sinn Féin.
“Support and solidarity should be expressed to those who experienced the disaster in Grenfell.
“Councillor Cuthbertson has suggested these are hollow words. I would advise him to check with his DUP colleague, Kim Ashton, the current Chair of the Council.
“He will find that following the disastrous events at Grenfell Tower, it was me who contacted her on behalf of Sinn Féin requesting formal action to be taken on behalf of the Council.
“My colleague Councillor Catherine Elattar, is the current Vice Chair of the Housing Council and a member of the Housing Executive Board.
“She made representation to the appropriate authorities to stress the importance of doing everything possible to reassure tenants about health and safety arrangements.
“I am content to say that this Council responds in a positive and proactive way to tragic circumstances such as the ones we have seen in recent weeks and months.
“We have systems in place, which include practical action such as the welcomed donation from Councillor Ashton.
“It is our opinion that the current Mid Ulster policy regarding flags was carefully and fully considered at the time of its implemenation.
“It serves us well and does not require amendment at this time. I do not think a return to a divisive protocol will do us any good.”