Royal Mail has set out limits for English workers when it comes to displaying their national flags during the World Cup, one day after revealing it has decked out a Belfast delivery lorry in the colours of gay pride.
TUV MLA Jim Allister – who a day earlier decried the rainbow-coloured Northern Irish lorry as “political bandwagon” – said the contrast between the restrictions on the England flag and promotion of the gay pride one are “pretty telling”.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the prime minister said that “everybody should be able to show their support for the England football team”.
Whilst employees do not face a total ban on displaying flags, they are to be prohibited from Royal Mail vehicles.
The company – which was sold from public hands to private investors in 2013 – told the News Letter that the same policy has been in place for years.
“This is a company-wide policy across the business which covers flags and stickers across trollies, bikes, vans and lorries,” it said.
“No other flag or insignia should be carried next to the Royal Mail brand and insignias.”
It said flags can “obscure the driver’s view” or harm other motorists if they fly off mid-journey.
However, flags can be displayed in offices, and live World Cup match commentary will be played through its PA systems.
On Wednesday, Royal Mail had announced that a large, newly liveried gay pride lorry will operate in the Belfast area during the summer, and was introduced to “support colleagues and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Allister, MLA for North Antrim, said: “Royal Mail has an attitude which obviously comes from a pretty warped mindset, in that they prohibit national pride for Englishmen in their national team but fall over themselves to embrace gay pride. I think the thing speaks for itself.”
When it comes to who he is supporting himself, he laughed and said: “I’m not a big football fan, but I’d like to see England do well.
“I think nationally 1966 was a great fillip for the whole nation. Since Northern Ireland isn’t there, the next best stop is England.”
Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “The Royal Mail’s policies are a matter for them. But the prime minister believes everybody should be able to show their support for the England football team and hopes a way can be found for people to do that.”
When it comes to the display of other symbols, such as a person wearing a crucifix, for example, Royal Mail said: “Colleagues may wear items such as jewellery or ornaments as long as they are not offensive, indecent, a health and safety risk, or otherwise incompatible with Royal Mail’s standards.
“So if someone wishes to wear a crucifix, cross or rosary, they would be entitled to do so.”