Letter

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Finlay writes to PM over exclusion of Union Flag on driving licences

DUP councillor JOhn Finlay has written a letter to the Prime Minister over the decision to exclude Northern Ireland from the ‘excellent new scheme to display the Union Flag on UK driving licences’.

In his letter the Ballymoney representative wrote: ‘I am writing to you to express my anger and dismay at the decision to exclude Northern Ireland from the excellent new scheme to display the Union Flag on UK driving licences.

‘I know that my anger is shared by many within the broader unionist community in Northern Ireland who are proud to be an integral part of the United Kingdom and are very upset at this latest manifestation of efforts to make Northern Ireland appear less British than the rest of the UK.

‘The Minister for the Environment in Northern Ireland, Mark H Durkan MLA, has indicated that he does not intend to make any change to the current design of the licence. However, I feel that he has been able to take that decision because of the weakness you and your colleagues have shown on the matter.

‘You don’t need me to tell you that the Union Flag is very precious to those of us who live in Northern Ireland, and this was well illustrated by the reaction to the decision to remove the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall in December 2012.

‘The anger over that absurd decision is still palpable. We on this side of the Irish Sea value our British citizenship to a degree that is hard for people on the mainland to fully appreciate, and we have had to contend with a prolonged and bloody, but ultimately unsuccessful, terrorist campaign designed to deprive us of that British citizenship.

‘Nowadays, efforts to weaken the Union are pursued through political actions, and we are often told that we cannot display symbols of our British identity because we live in a divided society. Such arguments are spurious. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK and its citizens should not be denied the right, enjoyed by their fellow citizens, to display symbols of the Union or to have the Union Flag on their driving licences.

‘On several visits to Northern Ireland, and on other occasions, you have spoken of your pride in, and commitment to, the Union. Speaking about the new licence arrangements, your colleague, Transport Minister Claire Perry, said: “People in this country rightly take pride in our national flag which is why I am delighted it will now be displayed on British driving licences … Celebrating Britain strengthens our sense of national identity and our unity. I will feel proud to carry my new licence and I hope others will too.”

‘I fully concur with those sentiments, which is why I feel so badly let down by Northern Ireland’s exclusion from the scheme.

‘I know that my party colleagues at Stormont and Westminster will continue to lobby on this issue, but I felt I should write to you just to raise a grass-roots voice and to urge you to intervene to ensure that the Union Flag is included in Northern Ireland driving licences.’