City Hall #Fleg Riots: “This argument over the Union Flag has been divisive and unnecessary from its outset…”

7 views

The dark seam of comedy running through last night’s vote at the Belfast City Hall is such that this morning, few ordinary citizens of Belfast will notice whether there is a flag there or not. The councillors obviously will. Nationalism’s delicious revenge will be as one moderate nationalist put it that “unionists will now just get to stare at an empty pole”.

Rushing the City Hall after the vote was announced, and then taking it out on St Mathews Church in the Short Strand appears to have been the worst outcroppings of the violence. BBC are reporting that 15 police officers have been injured

At 11.56 last night, Peter Robinson issued the following statement:

“The scenes of violence in and around Belfast City Hall and the wider vicinity are totally unacceptable and must be unreservedly condemned.  There is no excuse or justification for attacks on police officers, council staff, and property.  Such behaviour is not representative of those who campaigned to maintain the Union Flag flying over Belfast City Hall.  My thoughts are with those police officers and security personnel who have been injured as well as those whose property has been damaged and I would appeal to the community to remain calm and not to get drawn into confrontation.

Violence such as that witnessed completely detracts from the debate in the Council chamber and shifts the focus away from those Councillors who were responsible for pursuing this motion to remove the flag completely from two Council buildings and ensure it would not be flown at City Hall other than on designated days.

The decision to pursue the removal of the flag from City Hall and other Council buildings, despite warnings of the likely consequential impact on community relations, was foolish and provocative.  Those who talk most about building community relations have by their actions in the Council substantially damaged relations across the city.”

There you go, he manages to neatly apologise (not!) for the disruption, the injury caused to the cops and then put the blame on those he claims decided to stir up this hornet’s nest.

Is there any truth in this line of reasoning? Well, a decision to remove the flag completely (something not directly recommended by the Equality Commission) had already been taken by the policy and resources committee:

It should also be noted that no one has produced any evidence that flying the Union flag has been identified as a problem that any real person in Belfast shares. Though as Equality Commission notes, there is likely to be a freezing effect on Protestant workers.

But, and this is where, I suspect, I fall into line with most of Slugger’s other commentators, what on earth is wrong with designated days? As IJP points out, it’s what Lisburn does, and most other councils the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

It is also official Alliance policy. So in that respect, if not in all others, the deal-maker’s hands were tied from the beginning. Carpet-bombing east Belfast with anti Alliance leaflets was unlikely to make a positive difference to the outcome.

However it was also clear from the very earliest point in the negotiations that Sinn Fein would have gone for this kind of compromise. The party which pushed for a zero tolerance position for the Union flag in Belfast was the SDLP.

As my old, if now Tory, friend Trevor Ringland notes this morning:

“This argument over the Union Flag has been divisive and unnecessary from its outset. It was brought to fruition completely disregarding the results of a consultation. Those who initiated the action, motivated by political gain, were irresponsible to do so and those who used the issue to stir up emotions and mobilise protests, which ended in violence last night, could be considered reckless in their response.”

“None of the parties at City Hall has come out of this episode with credit, but the strongest condemnation must be reserved for the people who resorted to violence last night. The important task is now to pick up the pieces, repair relationships and continue building the Belfast we can all be proud of, which is the city the vast majority of its citizens recognise and want to live in.”

So, here’s the result of a survey of people visting the City Hall and their responses to the flag:

You can find it here on the BCC website, along with the submissions of all the parties, legal advice and a whole bunch of stuff around this issue [must have cost a bleedin' forture - Ed].

But arguments over symbols is what the City Council do best, especially in the run up to Christmas. Last year, Sinn Fein won a nice little plus sum game over (wait for it), Irish language Christmas signs. This year the DUP have lost a zero sum play (albeit, not of their making) over a flag no one who’s ordinary had ever objected to.

Aside from doing my usual Christmas recommendation that all Belfast unionist councillor’s read Cllr O Muilleoir’s classic, Dome of Delight on how Republicans in the 80s and 90s used unionist reactions to deepen and further the objects of their own cause.

The one bright spot in a very dark evening for the DUP was how the young DUP Mayor stayed calm and collected in the Chair, not least in the firm way he dealt with agressive contraventions from his own side. Definitely one to watch for the future.

Returning to the broader issue, perception, of course, is king. The flag is important as a symbol of sovereignty, of course. But so is cutting a reasonable deal that people more broadly can buy into (if that’s truly what you want).

Dying in the ditch is soooo 1970s/1980s. As Brian has noted of our broader political leadership, “it’s quite a shock for them to realise that the age of poltical romance is over”.

Our age of political romance got a lot of people killed. And for what? Power-sharing institutions inside the United Kingdom, and a disingenuous riot over the ordinary regulation of #flegs.

,

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    ‘…despite warnings of the consequential impact….’
    That section of PR’s speech is a dead giveaway as to Robinsons real motives. The whole campaign of leaflets by both main unionist parties was aimed at intimidating councillors out of operating the democratic arithmetic in the city hall. In other words do as we say despite our loss of council control or else…. There will be more of this kind of organised blackmail as the tide continues to go out on unionism.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    This morning, Peter Robinson answered the question on the affect of last night’s events on the NI economy and trade missions overseas. He reckoned it wouldn’t have been on the front pages of Chinese newspapers today.

  • PaddyReilly

    The one bright spot in a very dark evening for the DUP was how the young DUP Mayor stayed calm and collected in the Chair, not least in the firm way he dealt with aggressive contraventions from his own side.

    So, are SF administering British rule or the DUP administering Fenian rule?

  • Dec

    ‘The whole campaign of leaflets by both main unionist parties was aimed at intimidating councillors out of operating the democratic arithmetic in the city hall. In other words do as we say despite our loss of council control or else’

    Or, the DUP kicked up a huge storm over an issue they knew they couldn’t win, suckered the UUP into going along with it and calculated that whatever happened outside the City Hall (they probably assumed the Police would have done a better job of securing the gates and Guy Spence’s windscreen) was small beer compared to the potential electoral boost they’ll receive in East Belfast if Alliance was painted as the villains of the peace. Either way, it’s pretty despicable.
    (And potentially a major miscalculation if the feedback I’m receiving from all spectrums in work today is correct – people like flags but people like Christmas Markets better).

  • Dec

    ‘This morning, Peter Robinson answered the question on the affect of last night’s events on the NI economy and trade missions overseas. He reckoned it wouldn’t have been on the front pages of Chinese newspapers today.’

    Well, that’s ok then. People without jobs, take note.

  • Pete Baker

    That showed ‘em…

  • Greenflag

    @ Paddy Reilly ,4 December 2012 at 12:37 pm

    ‘are SF administering British rule or the DUP administering Fenian rule?’

    Excellent question to which there are of course two answers which comes in two parts .

    Part 1: They are and they are’nt .
    Part 2: They are’nt and they are .

    Perhaps that Chinese ‘trip/junket ‘ might have had some spin off benefits . The Chinese one party state is known for it’s many internal contradictions and being able to ‘transcend ‘ them. The infamous ‘Hong Kong ‘ sell out by the British High Commissioner Chris Patten being a case in point .

    The Chinese quid pro quo for the ‘takeover ‘ was that China post absorbtion of Hong Kong would be one country with two systems . And so it has come to pass even unto the present .

    Perhaps the Chinese are just more flexible and less ideologically committed than the followers of Peter & Martin ?

    As for all the talk of ‘exporting the NI peace process ‘? perhaps NI might consider ‘importing ‘ the Chinese ‘realpolitik’ process to the mutual advantage of the constitutionally diametrically opposed ?

  • Brian Walker

    Mick
    An excellent analysis which covers the subtleties with an insight and detail that we’ll have to wait for from the mainstream media tomorrow, if ever.

    An ideal example of what Slugger can do at its best.

    It’s important now I think to keep following developments in this detail and always looking for the wider context, so as to deny a clear field to black and white simplicity

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “It’s important now I think to keep following developments in this detail and always looking for the wider context”

    You didn’t grasp that point yesterday, Brian ;)

    In a camera analogy, it can be useful to zoom out as well as to zoom in to get the best feel for any story, not least a Northern Ireland one.

  • iluvni

    thread after thread on the Union Flag in Belfast….silence on GAA racism and sdlp voting to support the naming of playparks after IRA terrorists.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oh don’t you worry. That’s coming and I’m tying it with the destruction of the Kingsmill memorial over the weekend too…

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    Which memorial? The existing one or the new monstrosity being built by Willie Frazer without the permission of the families?

  • Brian Walker

    I feel a Nobel prize for nitpicking coming on …

  • BarneyT

    By removing the flag and erecting it (presumably with pomp and ceremony) on designated days, renders the flag more offensive and divisive than it already is?

    I’ll be honest, I am not aware of the designated events that will now be marked by the flying of the Union flag, but I would assume by nature they are relevant to one section of the community.

    The union flag has been tarnished through its misuse. It has been used to provoke and assert dominance and any cultural associations have been fouled in the NI context.

    If the entire community of NI is to be taken into account, it is surely not appropriate to fly it alone?

    However, is it not better to fly the Union Flag flown persistently, as its misuse has it now given it chav-like status and therefore has rendered it sad and less offensive to many?

    Why give it prominence and 12th of July like status by dusting it off and hoisting it a few times a year, critically, in support of one side of the community?

    Now I know the Union flag is the state flag however, we all know the state is contentious. Continuing along the lines of settlement and compromise, the Irish flag is the flag of the Irish in NI and the Union flag represents the British in Ireland. Can we not accommodate both? Surely the side-by-side option is by definition is less divisive than intermittent use of the British flag.

  • Mick Fealty

    Neil,

    You know which one. Scratching IRA into any memorial is not a great message of peace and harmony. But I guess that’s Willie’s fault again?

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Mick, correct, it’s not a great message of peace and harmony, and it’s not Willies fault, however, wild guess it’s one individuals fault, hope your not going down the road of blaming all Nationalists for the actions of one or two.

    Indeed, this thread is in danger of going down the ‘whataboutry’ route

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    Nothings ever Willie’s fault Mick, not the Love Ulster riot, not the Italian flag in Donaghmore, not the Kingsmills memorial march complete with kick-the-Pope bands (also unwanted by the families), not the missing EU grant money – I could go on all night here. No nothings ever Willie’s fault, he’s not a provocative unhinged zoomer as his various YouTube testimonials illustrate.

    Besides scratching something into a bit of wet cement is hardly “the destruction” of the whole thing.

  • Kevsterino

    If any of you can help a dim yank like my good self understand what political calculation the SDLP made that led to this: “The party which pushed for a zero tolerance position for the Union flag in Belfast was the SDLP” (printed with emphasis added at top of the thread.

    Are they trying to flank SF in anti-establishment agitation?

  • Mick Fealty

    Ulick,

    I take your point, but only up to a point (ie sectarian needling cuts both ways). That post is now up so there’s somewhere else to focus on that.

  • DoppiaVu

    A paltry 8% of people were uncomfortable or offended by the flag.

    A whopping 92% either wanted it to stay, or didn’t care either way.

    And yet SF/SDLP push ahead, knowing full-well what the consequences would be. And loyalists duly oblige.

    Truly pathetic performance, all round.

  • BarneyT

    Ones confidence in ones identity will determine the scale of offense caused. If someone waves their flag in your face…they wave their flag in your face.

    It’s not a magic wand for inducing conversion or identity stripping. This is why I think the removal of an otherwise ignored emblem in favour of an intermittent erection will cause more offense, whereas a permanent erection will render it largely impotent in time!

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    @DoppiaVu
    That’s visitor numbers, a self-selecting group and doesn’t take account of the views of employees or residents and ratepayers.

  • Hopping The Border

    iluvni

    thread after thread on the Union Flag in Belfast….silence on GAA racism

    What exactly do you want/expect from a thread on the actions on the, ahem, Kilcoo Klux Klan?

    What happened has been roundly condemned by all concerned, and the matter is being investigated at club level and by the Ulster Council.

    I think it unlikely you will find anyone defending the acts complained of.

    What’s more, although not the sole instance of such conduct by any means (I myself played on an underage team where one of my friends was very occasionally subjected to such taunts, primarily as he was usually the standout player on the field) such behaviour is extremely rare in the GAA.

    Indeed Mr. Cunningham’s father has alluded to this point in an interview with the BBC:

    “He said he received racial abuse every week in the Irish League, but was shocked his son had suffered it during a GAA match….

    ….in Gaelic football, you just don’t expect this, you really don’t, because everybody knows everybody and everybody has a level of respect for each other.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20577083

    It appears to me at least that your eagerness on this subject stems only from a desire for an opportunity to attack the GAA.

  • Mick Fealty

    Very droll HTB, if indulging our friend by joining him somewhatly off topic…

  • Paulk

    Ok first things first, the people responsible for the scenes last night were the DUP and the UUP. The leaflets and numerous television appearances regarding this “issue” could only ever have led to one thing and that’s what happened – surely questions need to be asked about this behaviour? Secondly, this is democracy in action it was put to a vote and the councillors elected by the people of Belfast made their choice however much you don’t like it thems the rules! Unionists cannot preach the merits of democracy at republicans then complain when that same democracy backfires on them. Lastly this such a non issue because in other news: 147 people lost their jobs in NI today and its only getting worse now there’s an issue to get annoyed about…… Oh sorry I forgot this is Northern Ireland where a flag is more important to our politicians!!

  • PaddyReilly

    Let us be frank. This is a massive victory for over the top Unionism. The flag will be flown on 18 designated days, including one for the Head of State’s third son’s wife’s birthday, an act of sycophantic grovelling that will find few parallels outside of North Korea.

    Apparently this event (it concerns a woman called Sophie Wessex, whom you may not have heard of) is a matter of great concern to the populace of Belfast. But it seems to me that the number can be increased, and that it is the duty of all right thinking Unionists to increase it. What about funerals? It is, after all, traditional to fly the flag at half mast out of respect on the day of the funeral of any deceased council member.

    So, what we want is a list of the Unionist members of the Council, and an agreement that each of them will commit suicide, in order of seniority, on designated days throughout the year (leaving sufficient time to co-opt a successor), in order to increase the number by having half-mast days.

  • Hopping The Border

    Apologies Mick but I thought it necessary to point the above out.

    By all means have someone compose a post on the issue, though what it exactly the content would be I am not sure, other than a continuous re-statement of “GAA in racism row – organisation condemns and investigates”

    One thing that struck me from last night’s events – even though the original SDLP/SF motion did not succeed there was still widespread unionist anger over the compromise voted on (and one which occurs on many other councils) with some unionists appearing to view it as “another concession.”

    http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/1701/tearing-down-national-flag-a-shame-and-disgrace

    The problem is that for almost a century, every effort was made to suppress the Irish dimension of Northern Ireland in an effort to reinforce its Britishness. (a position which to be fair is not incomprehensible given the manner in which NI was created and the ever present threat of an attack on it).

    Such a policy could more or less be executed with little hassle whilst one side of the community held a considerable majority over the other. However, with both sides approaching electoral equilibrium, naturally those who consider themselves Irish are going to push for their identity to be more reflected in public policy.

    Rightly or wrongly, because one side has been the dominant force for so long, they are the ones who will have to give the most ground in order for both sides of the community to meet in the middle.

    The problem now is that certain sections of the unionist population appear to have been educated that British = Good, Irish = Bad and thus view every move of equality as a concession to the “other side”, instead of realising that even with electoral equilibrium and the resultant move to a society more reflective of its populace NI remains in the UK which presumably is the most important political & cultural concern for any unionist.

    So instead of rabble rousing perhaps the DUP and the UUP could reassure their voters and supporters that even if the GAA is treated like a sporting organisation, even if the Irish language becomes more prominent and even if the flag doesn’t fly every day, Northern Ireland remains within the UK.

    And its unlikely to be within anywhere else for quite a while yet.

  • DoppiaVu

    @Ulick – yes I’d agree that it’s hardly scientific.

    but with a self selecting group I’d expect those that go to the bother of participating to be those with strong views – whats striking here is the high number of catholic respondents that just weren’t that bothered about the issue.

    Also, you can’t deny that 8% is pretty pitiful even in the circumstances.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I haven’t had a look at the actual EQIA before. It makes very interesting reading. The unionists would have everyone believe that the EQIA endorsed the idea that the flag policy should not change. This is a tenuous claim at best.

    I know if I was answering a survey like that I would have ticked the box to say that the flag does not offend me. That’s the truth, it doesn’t. However, I still don’t think it’s right to display tribal symbols on a daily basis on a shared space. The DUP seem to be claiming that those who were recorded as being unoffended by the flag were happy enough not to change it.

    In the public questionairre, Q1 shows that only 12% of respondents supported “no change to the current policy” (the unionist position). Staggeringly, a total of 59% of respondents to this question suggested that the Tricolour should fly alongside. Q2 shows that 60% thought that two flags should be flown.

    Also in the employee questionairre Q6a, 43% (a minority) advocate no change to the flag policy, the majority opting for some combination if designated days, no flag, or a different flag.

  • Neil

    Exactly CS. Been pointing out that people keep quoting spurious figures from the joint DUP/UUP questionnaire. Complete disinformation, and blatant. The details are there for anyone who can be arsed looking for it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So basically Alliance are being hammered – by the unionists – for taking a position that is more sympathetic to the unionist position than the nationalist one.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think you are next on the menu, after the UUs are disposed of…

  • ayeYerMa

    Paulk, what exactly do you expect the UUP and DUP to do in response to such a blatant and disrespectful disregard for what was supposed to be agreed as a fundamental and sacrosanct aspect of the Belfast Agreement? Stay quiet? Do nothing? Roll over? It’s just a wee bit pathetic to be complaining that politicians are… Shock horror!… campaigning around political issues…with those big, bad, awful, deadly…. leaflets!

  • BarneyT

    Here’s another thought. Until the Union Flag gives representation to the Welsh, it should not be flown anywhere surely? It begs the question, where do the Welsh stand in this Union? Do they remain insignificant?

    The Welsh were dominated and subsumed into the English Kingdom, hence their representation under the English emblem. That was the case over 400 years ago. They now have their own devolved parliament, yet no identity in the Union Flag. How does that continue to be acceptable.

    There is longer a strong case to retain the all-Ireland St Patricks element either. The flag is therefore not a true representation of the Union and its constituent member, including Northern Ireland. (unless they go by the St Georges emblem).

    Changes have been tabled over the years however the commercial implications of a redesign consistently outweigh the need to truly reflect each member state equally.

    The Union Flag as it stands should be rendered unsupported and be regarded as forward incompatible. If the Union really is important to the Unionists, the existing flag should be regarded as obsolete, be withdrawn and replaced by a more inclusive emblem of the Union.

  • Paulk

    AYM…A flag on a poll is a political issue?………… seriously?? with everything else out there that is going on you think the most important issue of the day is a piece of cloth on a metal poll?? Well here’s the thing the flag has been down 2 days and the sun still rises, the weather is still freezing, and we still get pay for things in British pounds. Other cities in the UK operate on the same lines as what has been compromised on where is the big problem? Jeepers if unionists are this insecure maybe they should all get a tattoo of a union jack so they always have one on them? Do you think that the unionists couldn’t have shown a bit of leadership and told their voters that this means nothing its really just window dressing by nationalists and not to really worry as this happens in the mainland UK cities also? no? the cities demographics are changing and this is just a reflection of those changes but when a flag IS flown it will be the union jack no other flag. To be honest i couldn’t give a monkeys what is flown it doesn’t mean a lot to me i know my nationality and am secure enough not to have to look a a flag to reassure myself, the problem i have with all this is unionists manufacturing faux issues, violence ensues, they issue a wishwashy condemation, the knuckledraggers vote for them (who i bet couldn’t name a councillor between them) the unionists keep getting elected, meanwhile the stuff that really matters (education, economy, etc..) gets swept under the rug and the politicians get away with it once again.

  • ayeYerMa

    Paulk, again pathetic that you are trying to label a Republican initiative as something “manufacturered” by Unionists.

    The issue isn’t merely about a piece of cloth, rather as I’ve said repeatedly it’s about respect for the agreed constitutional set-up of NI. It’s also rather galling to be lecturing Unionists on “security” as terrorism and a lack of security and military support from the sovereign government since the creation of NI is at the core of why the place has been in such a mess in the first place.

    Comparisons to a few other areas in the UK are moot as treasonous zealots and gunmen are not repeatedly elected to power there in vast numbers (yet), nor do politicians in such councils in GB represent the capital city of a province whereby a treaty was supposed to have been signed whereby respect for our constitutional position is a sacrosanct component.

  • Paulk

    AYM, Republicans/Nationalists don’t want the Union flag flown from city hall in a city where nationalists are in the (nominal) majority big shock there i’m sure….. just like when they become mayor of the city they take the picture of the Queen down in their office. Can’t you see this for what it is?
    Its a little bit of grandstanding to their supporters, they still get paid in £’s, the roadsigns are still mph, they still administor HM government here – this hasn’t altered the constitution one iota and when a flag is flown it is going to be the Union Flag does that not point to the constitutional set up here?.
    Republicans are using democratic means to try and achieve their aims, i understand that it may be sickening to see terrorists (as you put it) in government but they are now using democracy and peaceful means to achieve it. As i’ve said previously Unionists can hardly complain about things being the “will of the majority” then complain and resort to violence when the same majority doesn’t vote the way they want it to.

  • SDLP supporter

    Sorry I have come late to this thread but I think Mick Fealty’s comment on the OP “The party which pushed for a zero tolerance position for the Union flag in Belfast was the SDLP” [Bold type is Mick’s] is rather disingenuous, if not mischievous.
    The SDLP position on flags and emblems, specifically the Union Flag and the Irish Tricolour, is that, for decades they have been coat-trailed, used, abused, flaunted, etc to provoke, annoy, humiliate and intimidate.
    SDLP believe is that it best policy is to keep public spaces neutral with no national flags. If people want to fly national flags from their own property, that is their right, but they do not have the right to fly them from public street furniture. If Mick wants to characterise that as zero tolerance on the Union flag, he could equally say it was the SDLP position to have zero tolerance on the Irish tricolour.
    This issue came on the agenda because Sinn Fein raised it, as they were entitled to do. All parties stated their preferred position and Alliance proposed a compromise (designated days), which got majority support
    Personally, and I imagine a fair view SDLP voters feel like me, I would be happy if I never saw another national flag in this benighted place.

  • ForkHandles

    A lot of the comments on these flag threads show the abnormality of NI people still in 2012. It shows a lack of knowledge of the wider world that really is a bit embarrassing. In any country you will find the national flag flown from government buildings, maybe all the time. It adds colour and decoration and is a pretty standard thing to do. To want to fly it all the time is not ‘going too far’ it is not a tribal thing or any of the other NI phrases that are used in these threads. To want to fly the national flag all the time is entirely normal.
    Alliance have made a mistake in voting to remove it. They have thought that the correct view is something that is halfway between the 2 ‘extremes’. But this is an abnormal way to think, it is not looking at the issues with any level of intelligence or idea of what a normal society does with its flags. Picking something half way between 2 extremes is not thinking at all. There is no need to reduce the flying of the UK flag in the UK. They should have rejected the small minded politicians attempt to attack British symbols and called it what it is, which is stupid. Now they have supported a stupid drive to remove the national flag from a government building, for what reason exactly? It doesn’t offend anyone. But now alliance have shown themselves to be on the petty side and to be people who support the attack on British symbols from other petty and backward thinking politicians. Who will vote for them now?

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for that SDLP. And I imagine you are right about that last bit. But the progressive/liberal/SD position is coming under a huge squeeze just now.

    I understand why you baulk at the description, but it is what it amounts to, and it is how it will be seen (or at least projected) in mixed parts of south Belfast.

    SF’s position was unspecific giving them flexibility when it came to the negotiation process. They are a politically smarter outfit that’s lighter on its feet and thinking just a couple of moves ahead. Which is all it needs frankly.

  • BarneyT

    If you were to place odds on these two horses:

    Horse 1. Successful vote to remove the Union Flag
    Horse 2. Successful vote to erect the Irish Tricolour

    At one point you would have got very long odds on Number 1 and Number 2 would be a non-starter. I’m not so sure now.

    The removal of the Union flag is very significant and in time we will look back at it as a turning point in Irish history.

    The flag issue is not going to go away as the British in Ireland are attached to their Union flag (despite the two fingers it shows to the Welsh members of the Union) as the Irish in Ireland are to theirs.

    There are many that would have a sense of an “Ireland recovered” if they were to see their own tricolour flying high on a NI state building, even as a small gesture (perhaps to commemorate an insignificant event…eh like Easter?) I jest there of course. You don’t have to be an extremist to have such a want.

    The SDLP whiteout approach to the flag issue is not going to address anything as it is dismissive and urealistic. The Union flag and Tricolour are held dear for many in NI and progress can only be made if these emblems of identity are equally accommodated.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “SF’s position was unspecific giving them flexibility when it came to the negotiation process.”

    Mick, here are two quotes from the BCC EQIA documents that I posted previously; the SF position looks quite specific to me:

    SF: It is very clear that a significant section of the population of the City find this policy of flying the Union Jack, at worst offensive and at best off-putting. [p251] ..

    We believe the time for change in relation to these matters is long overdue. The flag should be removed and a clear action plan in relation changing the one dimensional cultural and political character of the City Hall be developed. [p252]

    Is it not possible for councillors to collaborate on a plan that would broadly reflect all aspects of the city’s character, including its more recent arrivals.

  • BeaWildered

    Can someone explain this to an outsider? A little less than half the population of the city like one flag and a little more than half like another flag. There’s no civil war going on and the city government is supposed to represent both sides. Why don’t they fly the two flags, every day, at the same times, in comparable locations, where anyone who gets off on flags can look at one while avoiding the other?

  • Barnshee

    “There are many that would have a sense of an “Ireland recovered” if they were to see their own tricolour flying high on a NI state building, even as a small gesture (perhaps to commemorate an insignificant event…eh like Easter?) I jest there of course. You don’t have to be an extremist to have such a want.”

    Does the Union Jack offend you?
    Do you live in the UK ?
    Do you or your family claim any type of benefit from UK?
    Does that offend you too?

    Have you considered emigration?

  • Neil

    Have you considered emigration?

    Encouraging people to oppose UJs and gloat at their removal. Keep it up buddy.

  • Barnshee

    Neil
    Try answering the questions

    (if not too difficult /liable to embarrass)

  • Neil

    Does the Union Jack offend you?

    I don’t like it any more than you like a tri colour.

    Do you live in the UK ?

    I live in Belfast. You can extrapolate that as you will, I’m aware of the current constitutional position and have no problem with it. We’re in the UK until we vote otherwise and that suits me fine. I won’t go on the rampage if I am on the losing side of a democratic vote.

    Do you or your family claim any type of benefit from UK?

    I work in IT and do fine for myself.

    Does that offend you too?

    What? The benefits I don’t get? Are you by any chance falling for that old work shy fenian thing? LOL.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Well written piece Mick.

    So there you have it, even within the nationalist community, two-thirds of visitors to the City Hall weren’t bothered by the flag, *even when prompted* by a questionnaire (that usually has the effect of bumping UP the figures).

    It all may be a storm in a teacup but on the other hand I am struggling to think of another occasion since 1998 when such a symbolic decision has been taken by one community over the other rather than on the basis of cross-community consensus. Perhaps it’s a sign of progress that it does stand out for its anachronistic approach to the flags issue.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So there you have it, even within the nationalist community, two-thirds of visitors to the City Hall weren’t bothered by the flag, *even when prompted* by a questionnaire (that usually has the effect of bumping UP the figures).

    The same survey shows nearly two-thirds of respondents thought that a tricolour should fly. Why are we selectively quoting from the survey ?

    It all may be a storm in a teacup but on the other hand I am struggling to think of another occasion since 1998 when such a symbolic decision has been taken by one community over the other rather than on the basis of cross-community consensus.

    What possible cross community consensus is there when dealing with people who insist that it’s their way or the highway ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am struggling to think of another occasion since 1998 when such a symbolic decision has been taken by one community over the other rather than on the basis of cross-community consensus.

    Um, how about the obvious one. The ongoing existence of the union with the UK ?

  • streetlegal

    Glad to see that the flag has come down from the City Hall. Belfast has always been an extremely sectarian city and the removal of a sectarian territorial marker from the centre of that city is a positive move.

  • Barnshee

    “Do you or your family claim any type of benefit from UK?

    I work in IT and do fine for myself.

    Does that offend you too?

    What? The benefits I don’t get? Are you by any chance falling for that old work shy fenian thing? LOL.”

    Er questions carefully avoided well done

    I presume you and associated relations do not use the Education and health systems thoughtfully provided free by the UK taxpayer and avoid employment in the (again heavily subsidised) public sector

    (The workshy sadly exist across all strata prod and mick)

  • boondock

    With all this bad feeling going on over the last few days I thought I might lighten the atmosphere with something I found on another blog

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Is there any truth to the rumour that the DUP have very recently invested a large percentage of their party’s financial reserves in a Chinese company specializing in manufacturing other nations’ national flags?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    CS,
    The constitutional issue – and the way forward for dealing with it – was agreed in 1998 and that hasn’t changed. The fact that sovereignty isn’t and probably never can be shared is irrelevant to that – there is consensus that that is the basis on which we operate now.

    Not sure where you’re getting that figure that two thirds thought a tricolour should fly … but looking back at the appendices document, it does lack context and it’s hard to make sense of some of the figures without further notes from the research agency, to be fair.

    But you must admit this decision was not arrived at by cross-community agreement and that’s not a good way of working on these issues. No excuse for the violence but as Newsnight said last night, the vast majority of protests have been peaceful and heartfelt. The survey indicated that something approaching 90 per cent of Protestants would be against this move and proceeding with it in the face of that when people have got used to cross-community approaches was to take a big risk. I hope it is all resolved peacefully and the violence stops as soon as possible.