Long-delayed report on flags and culture to be published

The report, which has cost £800,000, has already been criticised because it is not accompanied by a plan for implementing its 44 recommendations.

A South Belfast Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force 1913 flag
A South Belfast Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force 1913 flag

A long-delayed report on flags and culture in Northern Ireland is set to be published on Wednesday by Stormont’s Executive Office.

However the report, which has cost approximately £800,000, has already been criticised because it will not be accompanied by a plan for implementing its 44 recommendations.

The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) was originally set up in 2016 in a bid to find consensus on a number of contentious issues, but devolution collapsed before it could deliver its report.

Its findings were finally submitted to the First and deputy First Ministers last July, but have not been made public.

Northern Ireland Troubles legacy
Sinn Fein National Chairperson Declan Kearney said the FICT report should be accompanied by an implementation report (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Fein’s National Chairperson Declan Kearney said he believed that publishing the report without an implementation plan was a “mistake”.

He added: “I would much rather see scaffolding established in order to ensure an orderly implementation of those proposals within the report that I believe are deliverable.

“There are then clearly challenges which remain, but if we had had a framework of next steps then we could tackle those.

“It is for the parties who oppose the good sense of an implementation plan to speak and answer for themselves.”

SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin said: “The First Ministers have had the FICT report for more than 16 months, it has been eight months since the Assembly voted to compel them to publish the document.

“And now we learn that in that time they have produced not a single idea on how to implement any of the recommendations. It’s a farce.

“The Commission was designed to address the longstanding issues of culture and identity that have divided Stormont politicians for far too long.

“Now, having received their recommendations, Michelle O’Neill and Paul Givan can’t seem to agree on what to do with them.

“These issues go to the heart of divisions in our society and the failure to reconcile our people. It is far too important a challenge to allow this document to become an £800,000 ornament at Stormont Castle.”

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