Alliance member backs flags policy, but fears for family if named

I am a member of the East Antrim Alliance Party and I am appalled at the way the party has been attacked recently. Burning down a constituency office, attacking the homes of councillors and threatening to kill a Member of Parliament are each in themselves very serious attacks on the fundamental principles of democracy.

I believe strongly in the right to protest, to present your grievances and to try to persuade those in power of the strength of your argument, but there is no right to harass, intimidate or to threaten people who don’t agree with you. These are criminal behaviours.

The motion last Monday night in Belfast Council to only fly the Union flag on designated days was democratically passed – more elected councillors from the Belfast area agreed with it than disagreed. This is how democracy works.

The idea that the Alliance Party gave in to Sinn Fein and the SDLP to remove the flag from City Hall is ridiculous - the designated days policy has been Alliance Party policy since 2002 and is in line with Equality Commission findings. It should also be noted that in fact this was the first time ever that Sinn Fein have openly supported the flying of the Union flag anywhere.

The courage and composure shown by Marie Hendron and the other Alliance councillors, sticking to their principles after weeks of vile taunts and abuse, was commendable. Their compromise position was respectful to each side, reflecting the divided nature of most of the council on this issue.

The Stormont Assembly, councils across Northern Ireland and many councils in the rest of the UK all support a designated days flag-flying policy. This has been discussed and accepted at Stormont as long ago as 2000. Why is it suddenly such a problem now?

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and the Union flag belongs to us all. It is not owned by any section of the community and it should not be used for religious or political purposes. The reduction of the number of days that the Union flag is flown at City Hall certainly doesn’t make anyone less British.

The violent events across Northern Ireland in the last week and political unionism’s response to them have reinforced my belief that only the Alliance Party has any credible claim to promote a shared future.

We live in a society that is much in need of jobs, investment and tourism. The ugly scenes that we all witnessed recently present Northern Ireland in a poor light and do us all a great disservice.

I would like to sign this letter but rather than risk any attacks on my home or family, I will not. This in itself is a sad indictment of the current situation.

East Antrim Alliance Party member

(Name and address supplied)