US envoy Dr. Richard Haass has called for a new flag to represent Northern Ireland.
Haass asked the five main parties at Stormont for their views on a potential new flag as well as nine other topics, including the criteria a parading body should solicit from groups applying for the right to hold a parade or march.
The envoy is currently chairing talks in an attempt to find a consensus on parades, flags and dealing with the North’s troubled history.
In his letter to the parties he asked "What might a process to design and validate a new Northern Ireland flag look like? What role might such a flag play in civic life?"
He also asked for views on "a code of conduct for flags and emblems displayed unofficially in public spaces."
Speaking on BBC’s “Spotlight,” current PUP leader and former UVF member Billy Hutchinson made his feelings on the matter clear.
He said, “Well you know I find it very rich that an American would tell us to think about a new flag, how they actually bow down to their flag. You know, from my point of view, you know, the Union Jack is the national flag of the country. I am British and I live in Britain. So, I don’t want to see a new flag or do I want to even be involved in trying to create one.”
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said Dr Haass’ suggestions were “totally unacceptable.”
“No country’s flag is neutral,” he said. “It is a symbol of that country. An emblem of sovereignty. The flying of the Union Flag shows that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The Ulster Banner [the flag of Northern Ireland from 1953-73] recognized our allegiance to the monarchy of the UK by the inclusion of the Crown."
Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the News Letter his party stands “four-square behind the Union Flag as the flag of our country – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Our approach to the Haass discussions will be to ensure the Union Flag is treated with respect as the national flag.”
He continued, “It is our national flag and should be properly recognized as such throughout Northern Ireland and especially in Belfast.”
Ulster Unionist Member of the Legislative Assembly Tom Elliott said recognition of the flag was part of the Belfast Agreement. He said, “By recognising Northern Ireland’s position as part of the United Kingdom, those who signed up to these agreements also acknowledged that the flag of the country is the Union Flag.”
Here’s the clip of BBC’s “Spotlight”: