NI number plates

The Telegraph reports that drivers registered in Great Britain will be able to display national flags of England, Scotland, or Wales on their number plates, legally. This is a modification of an existing statute that allowed drivers throughout the United Kingdom to use number plates with the flag of the European Union, with “GB” written underneath it.

The story is that this has happened by removing the right for Northern Ireland registered drivers to do the same, on the reasoning that there is no consensual flag/symbol for Northern Ireland.

Until that’s sorted, why not let Northern Ireland drivers use a number plate with either a Union Flag or St Andrew’s flag (Scotland), if they wanted? (Or English, but somehow I don’t reckon I’d see many take that up!) After all, Southern drivers confidently drive up all the time with their number plates of the European Union flag and “IRL”.

Ian Parsley proposes that drivers have their region abbreviation put on top of the European flag on the “Europlate”, e.g. “NI” above Euro flag above “GB”.

The “GB” abbreviation confuses matters of course. Historical accident that the United Kingdom registered “GB” not “UK” with the United Nations.

Also unfortunate that this is an “excepted” not “reserved” matter, meaning that only Westminster can legislate on it; there’s no scope for a Northern Ireland Assembly taking up the matter.

The News Letter published an article. Link unfound; here is the text:

Let motorists display flag for Ulster: UUP
Sam McBride (News Letter)

Unionists have called for Ulster motorists to be treated the same as drivers in England, Scotland and Wales by being allowed to display a national flag for Northern Ireland on car number plates.

The Government has reportedly removed Northern Ireland from legislation in an attempt to simplify quashing an unpopular law which only permitted the EU flag — an no others — to be displayed on number plates.

According to a report, the new proposals would allow motorists to replace the ring of stars with either the Union Flag, Cross of St George, Scottish saltire or Welsh dragon.

Beneath that they will be allowed to display ENG for England, SCO for Scotland, WAL for Wales, or GB for Great Britain.

But Ulster Unionist Assemblyman David McNarry said that excluding Northern Ireland was a ‘snub’ by the Government and called on ministers to treat the Province in the same way as the rest of the UK.

“The Government has failed to exercise common sense on this issue,” he said.

“The answer is straightforward — the Cross of St Patrick is that part of the Union Flag which represents Northern Ireland and is surely acceptable across the community.

“It is on this basis, after all, that the Cross of St Patrick is used on the PSNI insignia.

“When car owners in other constituent parts of the United Kingdom are allowed to display their regional flags, excluding Northern Ireland is a clumsy, unnecessary offence to the people of Northern Ireland.”

Mr McNarry said that the issue was a fundamental one for all unionists and claimed that not addressing the problem of number plate flags could lead to a “plethora of number plate designs” and an “unregulated cottage industry”.

DUP Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson said that it was “most unfortunate” that Northern Ireland was not being treated the same as England, Scotland and Wales.

“I think it is most unfortunate that Northern Ireland should be excluded from this scheme,” he said.

“We have managed to find symbols in the Assembly and PSNI which have satisfied all sides of the community.

“I think the Government has taken the lazy way out.”

North Down Alliance deputy mayor Ian Parsley — who “slightly reluctantly” displays the currently permissible GB lettering beside the EU flag on his number plates — said the law needed to be changed to avoid confusion.

“I believe that it would be consistent with the agreement for people to have to have UK because we are a part of the UK — not Great Britain,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport in London said reports that the Province would be excluded were “speculation” — but refused to say that they were wrong.

“The Secretary of State has made it clear that he wants to take it [the new law] forward as a priority and he will do that.

“The regulations will then be taken forward in Parliament and we will not be commenting on them before that,” she said.

A DOE spokesman said: “We have been aware for some time that the authorities in Great Britain were planning to change the law there to allow national flags to be displayed on number plates — and that discussions had taken place with the NIO on the implications for Northern Ireland.

“The decision they have made means that vehicles registered in Northern Ireland will be able to display only the European symbol.

“However, it is understood that the position is to be kept under review and that if a Northern Ireland symbol can be agreed, the option of extending the Great Britain legislation to Northern Ireland will be considered.”

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