In shock new proposals the Irish tricolor could fly over Stormont in Belfast, alongside the union flag when certain Irish dignitaries are in Northern Ireland.

The proposal has been hit with harsh criticism on both sides of the border in Ireland. Belfast’s first Minister Peter Robinson said “If I thought this was the final paper, there would be steam coming out of my ears. But it is not the final paper and we still have work to do and we are up to doing that work.”

The once unimaginable proposal was put to Northern Ireland parties in a draft discussion document that were shown to members at Stormont hotel.

The document suggests that the Assembly Commission should consider flying the tricolour when the Irish President or the Taoiseach are here on a State or official visit.

The draft proposals came from US diplomat Richard Haass. The flag situation in Northern Ireland has been fueled by months of rioting in Belfast and continue in Ireland. The rioting began after Belfast City Council voted more than a year ago to reduce the flying of the flag at city hall to designated days.

According to UTV First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson declared that some of the proposals were "totally unacceptable" and that his party would be outraged if they went ahead.

"That (the Tricolour proposal) would have been high on the list of the things that angered the DUP," Mr Rowan said.

Regarding the Union flag, Dr Haass has proposed that it could be flown on other councils buildings on designated days, in line with Belfast City Hall.

"As I understand it, and this is how it is being interpreted, there would be an opt-out in council areas for instance where there is a nationalist majority, if that was so decided," Brian Rowan explained.

"And there's a bit of confusion about those council areas which fly the flag in 365 days of the year - would they still be able to fly it on that number of days?"

The proposals are very much in the draft stages and work is continuing to break the stalemate and find viable solutions to long-running issues.

Journalist and commentator Brian Rowan told UTV: "My understanding is that, on the Union flag for instance - and Belfast City Council in particular - there is no advance on designated days.

"Controversially, most controversially, Haass has also identified days when he thinks it would be appropriate to fly the Tricolour."

The occasions when Dr Haass thinks the Tricolour could be flown are understood to be during Irish state visits, for example.

"As one unionist said to me: 'Enda Kenny is up and down here like a yo-yo.' He was asking how many times then would the Tricolour be on Parliament Buildings?" the commentator added.

Mr Robinson said: "There are some things that are totally unacceptable and we would be outraged if we really believed that Dr Haass was serious in believing that that was going to be an outcome." He said he was disappointed by the proposals on flags but added: "Nobody is throwing the towel in."

None of the parties was prepared to sign up to the proposals as they stood. Mike Nesbitt, the UUP referred to Margaret Thatcher's rejection of Irish Government proposals in 1984 with the words "out, out, out".

Mr Nesbitt then stated: "We are a long way from 'in, in, in' but we as an Ulster Unionist Party are staying positive because there is a prospect here to do something that will help society move on without disrespecting victims or disregarding the rule of law."