Unionists on Lisburn City Council have backed sectarianism after voting to fly the Union Jack permanently on all council flag poles.
Nationalists say the decision, passed by the two main unionist parties, breaks official guidelines which state that the Union Jack should only be flown on 17 days each year.
Nationalists have accused unionists of trying to turn Lisburn into a ‘Protestant town for a Protestant people’.
The council motion states: “With immediate effect the national flag will be flown on every day of the year at locations where it has existing flag poles within the city council limits.”
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler accused unionists of alienating nationalists.
“This is a sectarian attempt to intimidate nationalists,” he said.
“This will do nothing to improve community relations in Lisburn. The message this is sending out to potential investors is that sectarianism is alive and well in Lisburn. Unionists are well aware that Catholics will feel deeply intimidated by the flying of the Union Jack on a permanent basis.”
Mr Butler believes the issue will be tested in the courts.
He said: “Lisburn has always had a reputation as being the most sectarian council in the North but this confirms that it is full of superbigots.
“One third of the city’s population is nationalist. How are my constituents going to feel when they see Union flags fluttering from every council flagpost?
“This is just another step towards turning Lisburn into a bastion for the Democratic Unionist Party.”
There has been only one nationalist mayor in Lisburn’s history.
Despite having been on the council for 20 years, Sinn Féin has never chaired a committee.
Memberships of the District Policing Partnership bodies are renewed after every local government election in each of the North’s 26 council districts. Membership in the controversial bodies is meant to reflect the make-up of the local community.
Sinn Féin refuses to take up its seats on the boards. Unionist-dominated Castlereagh borough in east Belfast currently has two SDLP councillors yet neither was selected to sit on the policing body.
In a back-room deal done before a meeting of Castlereagh Borough Council last week, nine members of the council were nominated to sit on the policing body -- all unionists.