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Legal aspects of flag display in Northern Ireland, UK

Last modified: 2013-05-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: northern ireland |
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Legal aspects of flag display in Northern Ireland

There was the Flags and Emblems Act of 1954. According to Chris Ryder in The RUC: A Force Under Fire (London: Mandarin, 1992) this act:

'outlawed the display of a flag likely to cause a breach of the peace - clearly the Irish tricolour - and made it an offence to interfere with the display of the Union flag.' (p. 82).

Jan Oskar Engene, 8 March 1996

The act of the Northern Ireland Parliament (1922-1973) was repealed by the UK Parliament sometime in the 1980s.

Roy Stilling, 8 March 1996

The publication of the report, Transforming Conflict: Flags and Emblems by Dominic Bryan and Gordon Gillespie, Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast, March 2005, puts a different spin on this.

Regarding the contribution above by Jan Oskar Engene, this is the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act (Northern Ireland) 1954, passed by the now non-existent Northern Ireland Parliament. The quoted author is probably partisan in his interpretation of the Act ["clearly the Irish tricolour"], as the above cited report states that under Section 2(1) of the above referenced act, the police were given the power to "order a person who erected an 'emblem' to remove it, or for the officer to remove it, if the officer felt it would lead to a breach of the peace."  However, there was a specific exemption for the Union Flag under Section 2(4), which was excluded from the provisions of the Act. There is no reference to the flag of any other nation.

The above cited Queen's University report states that "The only recent legislation dealing specifically with flags has been the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000 which gives the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland power to make regulations regarding the flying of flags at government buildings (s.3(1))." (Paragraph 3.7 of the report)

The report goes on to provide in detail further examples of legislation which applies to the operation of Government policies in Northern Ireland more generally, not specific to flags and emblems, but including its implementation of policies on these, viz Terrorism Act 2000, Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, Northern Ireland Act 1998, Human Rights Act 1998, Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights, Lawful limitation of Convention rights, Public Processions (NI) Act 1998) (Secretary of State can "revoke" or "amend" banners to be carried by parade participants), Protection of the Person and Property (Northern Ireland) Act 1969, Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875, Public Order (NI) Order 1987, Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997, Fair Employment and Treatment Order (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003, various council powers and by-laws and torts.

Colin Dobson, 27 February 2006

Some may be interested in reading the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of The Northern Ireland Assembly ( on the Draft Flag Order (as the Flags (Northern Ireland) Order 2000 then was). At the time of the report I was working for a member of the committee.
Michael Carchrie Campbell, 27 February 2006

I am listening / watching this debate from Tuesday 25th February in the Northern Ireland Assembly ... it is merely a proposal to have an ad hoc committee to discuss flags, symbols and emblems ... and it is a bitter acrimonious row. The following links may be of interest:

David B. Lawrence, 3 April 2013

See also:

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