Northern Ireland is emerging from violence but still living with conflict. The recent flags protests in Belfast represent a challenge to public administration to transcend the contested politics of local government in Northern Ireland and to navigate a way through a symbolic legacy issue. This article draws on a longitudinal hermeneutic analysis of empirical research conducted on Northern Ireland local government over a decade, where these concerns dominated much debate. Additional analysis of the research findings reveals broader problems applicable to any public administration faced with managing situations in which good governance in public participation and procedural correctness operates alongside fundamental political disagreement and distrust. These conclusions are particularly pertinent for local administrations in societies transitioning from conflict.