Jubilee tree planting row leads to review of Stormont policy

The DUP had accused Sinn Fein of ‘intolerance and disrespect’ over a decision to prevent a tree being planted on the Stormont estate

Coronavirus – Wed Nov 17, 2021
Coronavirus – Wed Nov 17, 2021

An audit is to be carried out on the policy of which events can be commemorated in the Stormont estate.

The review has ordered by Finance Minister Conor Murphy following a row over a decision to prevent a tree being planted on the Stormont estate to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The DUP had called for an equality investigation and accused Sinn Fein minister Mr Murphy of “intolerance and disrespect” after he declined approval for the tree planting.

DUP Assembly member Joanne Bunting had sought permission to plant the tree on the estate as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project, an initiative that encourages people across the UK to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”.

Mr Murphy, whose department has responsibility for the grounds of the Stormont estate, insisted that official policy dictated that only “international events” could be commemorated with physical structures or planting.

But now Mr Murphy has decided to review that policy.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020
Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance said: “The Finance Minister has asked officials to review the policy and to carry out an audit of commemorative sites, trees, monuments, plaques, furniture, and signage currently on the Stormont estate.”

Last year, Sinn Fein vetoed a proposal put to the Assembly Commission to place a commemorative stone in Stormont’s Parliament Buildings to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary.

The commission, made up of representatives of the main parties, has responsibility for Parliament Buildings, whereas the Department of Finance is responsible for the surrounding grounds.

Sinn Fein insisted the stone had been “designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition” and accused unionists of failing to consult with other parties about their plan.

Last year, Mr Murphy also turned down a DUP request to plant a commemorative rose bush to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary within the Stormont estate.

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