In a u-turn demanded by unionists, photos of the English queen have once again been hung on the walls of government offices in the north of Ireland, two years after being removed.
In July, it was revealed that photos had been removed after a government official took action over sectarianism in the workplace, a common equality concern in the north of Ireland and one which is addressed by human rights legislation.
But on taking office, the new British Direct Ruler Julian Smith tweeted an image of the queen on the mantelpiece of his office. It wsa a deliberate snub to both nationalism and to equality legislation.
Mr Smith ordered a civil service “review” of the initial decisions, which resulted in a quick reversal. A photo of the queen on her own has now been placed in the main entrance corridor of Stormont House. It is one of a series of royal photos now on show throughout the building. A portrait removed from Hillsborough Castle several years ago has also been replaced.
Political commentator Ed Moloney said the u-turn “sends a pretty loud message”. He warned that “the danger of renewed violence in the North really lies...not at a Brexit-bred hard Border but by the British indulging the DUP in order to keep Boris Johnson in Downing Street and in the process abandoning the balance implicit in the Good Friday Agreement.”
Sinn Féin did not comment on the reversal, but warned of continuing moves by Smith to impose full Direct Rule of the north of Ireland from London after Brexit.
Smith said this week he would take further steps towards Direct Rule at the “earliest opportunity” if the powersharing Stormont institutions cannot be restored before an October 31 Brexit.
Among the edicts already being handed down by British officials include one for cars registered in the north of Ireland to display a GB sticker on crossing the border, a suggestion that drew a hostile response on social media.
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said “any moves by the British government to impose direct rule on the north - in any guise - is unacceptable.
“The ongoing events in Westminster have shown that the interests of the people of Ireland will never be served by the British government or British parliament.
“The fact this action is being considered by Julian Smith is in contravention of the St Andrew’s Agreement and underscores once again that the dysfunctional Tory government is in complete hock to its toxic pact with the DUP.”