UVF protests signal anxiety over pending supergrass trial?

This morning on RTE Tommie Gorman put his finger on something that’s been little talked about in the wider media so far regarding the unanticipated levels of street protest.

In fact it has little to do with the politics of City Hall and everything to do with the HET putting a tight squeeze on the UVF.

In particular minds in that organisation are being concentrated by the re-emergence of the supergrass trial format. In particular the position of Gary Haggarty:

In January 2010 he agreed to become an assisting offender under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).

Some 30,000 pages of material and 760 interview tapes have been amassed from interviews conducted with him.

Mr Haggarty’s lawyers successfully applied for bail during a brief hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court.

Mr Haggarty’s case is due to be mentioned again next month, with committal proceedings expected next year.

This would be a second pass on north Belfast UVF with a pair of supergrasses, the brothers Robert and Ian Stewart, just last year. It failed after 71 days in court.

There’s a school of thought which believes that was in part a dry run for a future for trial based on Haggarty’s evidence: and one of the key reasons that the UVF have taken to the streets.

Given the PUP’s position on flag flying was more Alliance than DUP, there appears to be some logic in that… Paramilitary tail wagging the political dog…

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  • ayeYerMa

    What a lot of crap. Next they’ll be telling us that the UVF has 13000 members on Facebook.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oh, yes? How so?

  • Stephen Blacker

    There is no doubt that this up-coming Supergrass trial will annoy whoever is “fingered” but the protests on the streets have nothing or little to do with any paramilitary group. The vast majority of people protesting are disgruntled Unionists fed up with the antics of Sinn Fein and on this occasion the naive Alliance Party.

  • Blaming the UVF is simplistic, serves to malign the protesters as a block (keeping the middle classes away), and avoids having to address the issues of how and why it reached a point where the protests erupted onto the streets.

  • Mick Fealty


    I’m hoping to get to talk to Billy Hutch this morning to get something from him. I DO understand the frustrations, which I marked right from the beginning.

    What I DO NOT understand is why the PUP thought designated days were okay beforehand, but not now?

  • Dec

    ‘What I DO NOT understand is why the PUP thought designated days were okay beforehand, but not now?’

    I imagine it’s because the UVF ‘convinced’ them otherwise.

  • BarneyT

    Designated days are generally acceptable to all, but it depends on who votes for it or pushes the agenda. It’s seen as a SF victory, which has been enhanced by the SF silence that has followed and left loyalism sore. Chiefly that is why they are now throwing their toys from the proverbial.

    There is not much evidence to suggest that unionism activated in protest. Many are embarrassed by this. It should be borne in mind that in Britain the flag is flown on selective occasions, which allows the events being marked to gain significance and to be honoured by the flag.

    Most in the UK would look at perpetual flag flying as crass, a bit like those in the ROI who see tricolour rising as a north dub chavster past-time.

    So this has nothing to do with logic, erosion of culture and identity as left alone, loyalism may have elected for minimal flying. That’s just how ludicrous this is.

    I hear people suggest, “why did they have to remove the flag right now…couldn’t it have waiting until the New Year?” Personally I think the boil had to be lanced and Northern Ireland cannot have its agenda set by any kind of loyalist or dissident threat. Loyalists have done immense damage to their reputation and have also tarnished political unionism and Northern Irelands membership of the UK. If this is what SF and the SDLP hoped for, then it was cute!

  • Mick Fealty


    Whereas the AC never lost control of Sinn Fein in the first place?

  • DC

    What I DO NOT understand is why the PUP thought designated days were okay beforehand, but not now?

    Politics Mick, the political climate and atmosphere, remember the motion was to remove the flag altogether by nationalist politicians, after that the ‘go and f**k yourself’ approach kicked in.

    Impossible to broker a deal when the atmosphere is one not conducive to good relations, which would explain why restricted days worked in Lisburn as it wasn’t in the face of a very unhelpful if not bigoted motion.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Mick of course I cannot speak for the PUP or Billy it is my understanding that attitudes back when the designated days were voted on were mutual and respectful. Today the Sinn Fein ‘Outreach” attempts towards the PUL community has been found wanting.and that has been reflected in the response to the symbolic removal of this country’s National Flag.

  • galloglaigh


    The PUL’s outreach hasn’t been forthcoming either. You should realise that, before pointing the finger at others. The country’s national flag by the way, has been hijacked by Crown forces who were involved in state terrorism; it has been hijacked by sectarian and racist Loyal Orders; and it has also been hijacked by armed and dangerous unionist terrorists, who over recent weeks have been out in force (according to the PSNI and others) attempting to murder elected representatives and police officers.

    That’s why the flag is only to be flown on designated days from now on. You’d need to get used to decisions like these, as it’s the future. Unionism no longer rules the roost.

    On a side note, as Mr Joe pointed out elsewhere, the Union flag flies over Westminster, only on designated days, or when parliament is in session. Perhaps Billy and his boys’ could arrange for protests in London? They could try blocking rush hour traffic there? I can tell you though, it’d be more than the MET police beating them off the street: the Great British public might lend them a hand. After all Ulster loyalism is in no way a reflection of the Great British public in general. They have more in common with the BNP (UPV), than they do any other strand of real British life.

  • Dec


    Presumably not, as there’ve been no Dawn Purvis-esque blow ups. But this volte-face on flags and Purvis’ leaving would appear to come down to the same issue – within UVF/PUP circles the dog still wags the tail.

  • Zig70

    When will the police learn from the collusion accusations that underhand tactics undermine themselves. You can trust a convicted criminal? Someone needs to tell them the story about the tortoise and the snake/scorpion.

  • Mick – Billy Hutchinson released a video in mid-November about his reasons for changing the PUP’s ten year old policy on the flag.

  • galloglaigh


    Billy Hutchinson’s Frazeresque mopery is laughable. Everyone Laugh Out Loud, cause Billy’s lost his fleg 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin


    I appreciate you coming along and explaining your perspective.

    Today the Sinn Fein ‘Outreach” attempts towards the PUL community has been found wanting

    I can think of a number of outreach attempts.

    There was McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen. He didn’t have to do that, he could have opted to insult her to get some roars of approval for the cheap seats. He chose not to. I am not a republican myself but I know enough about them to know that this was a difficult thing to do. Not all republicans were happy about it.

    Sinn Féin stepped down early to allow the DUP to take over as Lord Mayor in time for the jubilee celebrations. They did not have to do that. They could have stayed on as Lord Mayor and ensured that the Queen was snubbed by the city council.

    Sinn Feín stepped aside during the Ulster Covenant celebrations. They could have interfered with all of it through their control of DCAL. They chose not to.

    I agree that some decisions, such as the hunger striker park thing in Newry, were very outrageous and not acceptable – I am hoping in time such decisions will be reversed, and I believe that can happen through dialogue and agreement. But most of the decisions they seem to be making at a senior party level seem, to some extent, to be trying to show the unionists that they are not being threatening. If there was some grand strategy to strip out Britishness I could not cite the above three examples.

    Have the loyalists who are protesting really sat down to consider what Sinn Féin are trying to do, or are they simply counting up the number of things they have had to give away without looking at what has been coming back the other way ?

    Regarding the explanation for the about-turn of the PUP I think it really does not stand up. What you are saying here is that you have changed policy not because the policy was wrong, but because of the way another political party has supposedly been behaving. In other words, the PUP drafts its policies not based on principle, but rather in a reactionary fashion, responding to events. That’s not very “progressive”.

    It’s time to be truthful about what this is really about, namely Billy Hutchinson latching onto a headline event in order to get himself re-elected to council and to the assembly. It’s patently obvious. But I’m not sure it will work. The last time Billy (and his compatriot David Ervine) was elected he got lots of transfers from nationalists and soft unionists supporting his constructive and positive attitude, transfers which melted away when the UVF failed to disarm and began a slow return to violent means (ultimately resulting in his political career coming to an end). Billy won’t get transfers from nationalists this time – and getting the fruitcake loyalist tea-party jihad supporters to vote, especially after his big judicial review fails, may prove difficult.

  • Kevsterino

    I think there are some folks who would not see SF as attempting to reach out to them if they were to parade down the road engaged in self flagellation while a republican band played “The Sash”. It would make no difference what they do today or tomorrow, only looking back…

  • DC

    1) McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen – why do it? Good international publicity for the SF brand which you wouldn’t have got by snubbing her domestically. More exposure doing than not doing.

    2) The Jubilee had too much British backing to mess around with, didn’t want to upset the Queen and offset that international appeal which SF is aiming for so it can import or perhaps better phrased ‘transfer’ into the Republic. Basically why would a republican party hang around for a jubilee, it’s a no brainer to get offside surely?

    Naivety once again.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, what on earth is the relevance of “international publicity” ? SF runs in elections in Ireland only.

  • galloglaigh


    So DC, you’d have preferred snubs all round from Sinn Fein? Can you imagine the loyalist reaction to snubs, given the reaction to a fleg coming down from a pole?

    Republicans have given way more than loyalists. Where’s the guns Billy?

  • DC

    Comrade, global media exposure which would force Republic and British sites and TV channels to cover it.

    Although he stand out well re the killing of the PSNI constable by calling the murderers traitors; but obviously he doesn’t want would-be contenders trying to replicate SF’s former strategy as they have maxed that one out themselves or so they believe. SF is looking to work its position as leaders of nationalism in NI and use that in some way in the republic, SF don’t want annoying dissident contenders popping up and getting in the way. Basically they don’t want to get outbid at their own game.

  • galloglaigh

    Although he stand out well re the killing of the PSNI constable by calling the murderers traitors

    Yet Peter Robinson refused to speak out about racist, sectarian, and law-breaking activity by loyalist terrorists and their entourage over the Summer. So who has better leadership qualities, and who’s ‘First Minister’?

  • DC

    For what it’s worth i do not recognise the FM or DFM because neither put themselves before the vote of the Assembly and are not representative of NI/north because of this.

    Until cross-community voting is returned to the assembly regards the nominations and if you like cross-party election of the FM and DFM my view will not change.

  • galloglaigh

    And nor will Robinson nor unionism ever change, until they are forced to by the democratic process – as witnessed in BCC on December 3rd. That’s the problem.

  • DC

    True there is a problem with leadership within unionism and problems around conditioning its electorate, however, it is much easier to sell an aspiration – a dream – than an unpleasant and rather cold reality.

    Although I am not convinced with the argument re ‘democracy’, as nationalists never entertained majority vote unionism, which is why there are now power-sharing arrangements, so not sure if there is any moral ground to be had.

    I appreciate that nationalism views NI as a state that was cut and shaped to fit a certain ethno-religious group, but even still nationalists would not countenance going up into Stormont to be outvoted in the face of unionists. If you don’t sit at the table others will cut the cloth for you.

    Arguably republicans carried out terror till majority vote was ripped out and power-sharing dropped into the mix instead – and i do take onboard discriminatory concerns re old Stormont granted; but, SF and SDLP save for Alliance intervention were about to remove the flag altogether, that’s par for the course, that course being the stuff that the old Orange State would do. You guys in SF and SDLP attempted ‘Orange State’ stuff.

  • Clanky

    To be honest Mick, I think the answer is both more simple and more political than that.

    I think there was genuine outrage sparked by a combination of unionist frustration at not being the dominant political power in the province any more and a cynical attempt by the DUP to slur APNI over the flags issue for their own political gain. They didn’t send out leaflets criticising SF / SDLP for proposing that the flag be removed, but rather criticising APNI for proposing a compromise.

    The DUP are far more terrified of compromise than they are of confrontation, if the status quo of usuns and themuns is maintained then the DUP at least get to keep the majority of the unionist vote, if ordinary people start to see that there is another alternative, that it doesn’t have to be we get everything or they get everything then they might actually start voting for a party who they can envisage actually delivering that alternative.

    I think they simply didn’t realise what they were stirring up. Now the UVF have possibly jumped on the bandwagon to make certain that things get out of hand, but to be honest that is probably more to make sure that those who pay protection money to them stay scared enough to keep paying than anything to do with forthcoming revelations, what do they have to gain by street protests, do you think they believe they can somehow avert what might be coming to them with a few half hearted riots and some road blocks?

  • DC

    And to take more air out of Comrade’s McGuinness balloon, SF has been the only party so far to actually have been found to discriminate against at a tribunal and now libelled.

    Two charges that have stuck and these have both come out under due process.

  • galloglaigh

    A lot of us ‘guys’ on here are neither SF nor SDLP, but I do take your points and agree with some. The difference between unionism and republicanism (in terms of leadership), is that our crowd (SF, SDLP) don’t have to condition their electorate, and have an easier job selling unpleasant and rather cold realities, without being reduced to scaremongering and fantasy aspirations and forums.

    I do sincerely mean this, that it’s up to the man on the street to change unionism, and progressive unionism (Basil McCrea progressive, and not Billy Hutchinson progressive) needs to come to the fore politically. The lack of political strength among progressive unionists, shows the lack of courage within unionism let go. While hardliners from the main blocks within unionism hold the helms, we will never have any type of future.

    Change is needed from unionism; unionism hasn’t changed.

  • DC

    Billy Hutchinson from what I have heard contends that removing the flag – or attempting to remove the flag – has broken the spirit of reconciliation. He is entitled to say that and I don’t buy this stuff about “he’s looking for his seat etc”, frankly Hutchinson has been out of BCC long enough not to give a damn about position, privilege and baubles – he is a veteran activist not a career politician.

  • galloglaigh

    DC while removing a flag may have broken the spirit of reconciliation, by defending sectarian and racist activities, as Billy Hutchinson has done so particularly this year, you’re farther up the ladder of broken spirits. Sadly Peter Robinson, the supposed ‘First Minister’, is onboard Billy’s boat on this one.

    You see, the question that should be asked when weighing up the extent to which the spirit of reconciliation has been broke, is which came first: The chicken, or the egg.

    To many nationalists, taking the flag down is a two fingered expression – justified by over 200 years of unionist self-imposed supremacy.

  • DC

    Ah now we hit on the target, bitterness towards the unionist community, while understandable in certain quarters it might not be in others (understatement).

  • galloglaigh

    What you just said goes both ways, but like I say, you’d have to go a long way back in our history, to see any spirit of reconciliation from unionism, never mind militant unionists like Billy Hutchinson. That isn’t bitterness towards unionism by the way, it’s the truth.

  • anne warren

    Who is responsible for dealing with these protesters?

    Last updated at 18:26 GMT
    Union flag protests lead to bus services suspended and roads blocked
    There have been protests for more than two weeks over the decision to limit the number of days the union flag can be flown The majority of bus services in and out of Belfast city centre have been suspended due to loyalist flag protests


    Workers and shoppers with no way of getting home.
    Travellers to and from Belfast unable to reach their destinations
    Christmas social activities curtailed for untold numbers of ordinary people

    The police have known this was planned for nearly a week
    Is it their job to prevent this disgraceful situation?
    If so why haven’t they done anything?
    If not, who is responsible for stopping this disruption?
    Why was it allowed to go ahead?

  • DC

    Billy Hutchinson speaks –

  • Tom

    “You guys in SF and SDLP attempted ‘Orange State’ stuff.”

    I think the level of animous towards the Tri-Colour was more vitriolic in the heady days of the Orange State. Think Paisley and his boys and the Sinn Fein office in Belfast in ’66.
    Surely flying the Union flag on designated days is a reasonable compromise. City Hall by it’s very definition is a shared space, and not the domain of one tradition or the other. No one has “outlawed” the flag, no one has restricted the right to carry or fly it on your own.
    Even the Loyalist claim that their parading tradition has been threatened is disingenuious. There are hundreds of peaceful parades which cause offense to no one when conducted with cross community support or in primarily Unionist areas.
    The right to impose the Unionist culture either with flags or with parades has been restricted and I say that is a good thing.

  • carl marks

    one of the stranger points presented to us on this thread is the truly weird claim that Billy Hutchinson is not interested in a place on BCC , what a truly strange thing for a politician to not be interested in being elected, if I was of a cynical turn of mind I would think “Bullshit the truth is the man can’t get elected”
    Now perhaps one of the unionist posters on this site could answer something for me, do you not think that if you want people to show respect for your flag a good starting point would be to stop burning theirs at every opportunity.
    Also its is very amusing to compare the attitudes to the loyalist protesters (people have the right to protest you know) and the venom spat out about the nationalist protesters at St Pats and St Matthews (themmuns have no right to protest they are just troublemakers ye know) and blocking the queens highway is ok if you’re a loyalist but treason if you’re a taig.
    However none of this is new, Prancing bigots circle outside a catholic church they play sectarian tunes, wave union flags and be as offensive as possible then are surprised that nationalists may not approve of the flag that they Wave in a tribal and sectarian manner, then when a democratic vote goes against them the resort to rioting, death threats, burning the offices of politicians they disapprove of. And causing major damage to the economy accompanied by the old tactic of blaming everyone else but the people doing the damage, and the funniest bit is that are still so far out of touch with reality that they can still manage to get self righteous and lecture the rest of us on tolerance and democracy.

    So Lads get used to it the flag is their for 15 days a year and learn to live with it, Allaince saved your bacon without them it would not be there at all and if you dont start showing the tricolour some respect and residents groups some respect ( in other words behave like civillised people) then the next vote might take it down altogether or even worse put a Tricolour up.
    Its your call!

  • DC

    Billy Hutchinson speaks to Al Jazeera:-

  • carl marks


    Care to comment about how burning Tricolours on bonfires and at protests might affect your case? and the antics on the twelfth and black Saturday this year(and many many others), might this sort of activity carried out by people waving union flags affect the way the Irish who live here(soon to be the majority), the people loyalists seem to delight in offending regard the union flag,

    Now you can quote Billy all you want but until he gets a mandate big enough to put the flag back up then it’s all just hot air and even you got to see that that is just not going to happen.

  • DC


    Very unhelpful behaviour re burning the tricolour.

    And also re your comment about Billy not being interested in a seat, i didn’t mean for it to be read as ‘not interested’ but rather that he wasn’t exploiting the situation for simply that purpose, given that he lost his seat around 2005 and that i don’t think he would be the type to be pulling his hair out so to speak for a seat and trappings of office.

    He has got a little bit more exposure because he is leader of the PUP, which might explain the increase in coverage of him in particular in terms of being a go-to-guy.

  • carl marks

    Very unhelpfull! Well that’s one way to describe it, I’m sorry but try as I might I can’t seem to take that as anything other than an mealy mouthed statement about a action (and I include nationalists who burn the union flag is this) that is only done by twisted hate filled bigots, and only done to offend the other side, also I note nothing about the behaviour of the: Loyal orders: and loyalist bands during the marching season.
    As a matter of fact I see little attempts by any of the unionist’s posters on this site to come to terms with the new reality which is that the unionist majority is a thing of the past in BCC and in the north in general it will soon be gone.

    The “not an inch” and “No surrender” tactic only works when you control the state and guess what that’s a changing,

  • DC

    So long as transformation is done in a positive way in the spirit of reconciliation as per the GFA then all should be good, if not and more bigoted republican motions come forward and get propped up by others then I can’t see things improving.

  • galloglaigh


    Like I said before, it’s a possibility that the bigoted republican motions, are a return serve for bigoted unionist parades all Summer long.

    Unionism needs to change; unionism hasn’t changed.

    Republicans have given far too much, for very little in return. That is the truth.

  • DC


    As Billy Hutchinson says – SF are in *government* they are then supposed to live by the spirit of the GFA – respect etc, not muck about.

    Also, it’s a bit spiteful to hit out at mainstream unionism just so you land a good blow on Orange culture. Nose and face comes to mind.

  • In the summer of 2011, the UVF was threatened with having assets seized, so they encouraged teenagers to riot in East Belfast.

    So Mick’s suggestion of a connection between threats to the UVF and street protest now has a precedent.

  • DC

    Although Dave, Mick laced his comments with a PUP connection and influence in that it has had a hand to play in it or could in some way I imagine get some sort of electoral dividend – which isn’t going to happen given the nature of the protests blocking in their own community.

    Causing a nuisance to local people isn’t going to be very productive come election day surely?

    Ps – the PUP from what i read have never blamed Alliance and put the blame on both the DUP and UUP for causing people to come out onto the streets, now this all needs to be cleaned up and stabilised.

  • galloglaigh


    While Sinn Fein are indeed in government, they are in government with the DUP and UUP. Like I said, it’s a possibility that the bigoted republican motions, are a return serve for bigoted unionist parades all Summer long.

    Unionism needs to change; unionism hasn’t changed.

    Republicans have given far too much, for very little in return. That is the truth.

  • DC

    Well Gallog, I’m sorry things have worked out the way they have, although I think we are going round in circles here and I have already over-contributed to this one.

    I hope Mick gets in touch with Billy or perhaps the two PUP councillors, would be good to see that happen on one of his hang out sessions, but any contact would be good to try and find out why exactly from their point of view.

    I just don’t see why Billy Hutchinson as leader of a supposedly Progressive Unionist Party would go out of his way to entertain regressive elements of (east Belfast?) UVF – politically anyway, given that he has focused his work with the PUP on attempting more positive outcomes within unionism/loyalism.

    It’s all very well now for me to use hindsight, but it’s a pity Alliance just didn’t block the original motion and let the SDLP and SF come back with restricted days on the basis of maintaining good relations, might have taken the sting out of things and caused less hassle for Alliance and working class loyalist areas too.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s all very well now for me to use hindsight, but it’s a pity Alliance just didn’t block the original motion and let the SDLP and SF come back with restricted days on the basis of maintaining good relations, might have taken the sting out of things and caused less hassle for Alliance and working class loyalist areas too.

    It’s a pity your hindsight is crap. Alliance could not block the motion without violating party policy. I told you that already.

    Loyalists are against designated days. They want the flag flown 365 days a year. I am therefore at a complete loss to understand why you think tweaking the batting order in the council chamber so that Alliance would have instead backed a nationalist-proposed designated days proposal would have made a single jot of difference to what happened subsequently.

  • DC

    Comrade, below is the *Original Motion*

    Belfast council committee votes to take down Union flag

    Belfast City Council’s policy committee has recommended that the Union flag no longer fly over the City Hall.

    A motion to remove the flag was passed at a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Friday.

    The committee also backed the removal of the Union flag at two other council properties, the Ulster Hall and the Duncrue complex.

    For the motion to take effect the decision must be ratified by the full council on 3 December.

    (Ps – you get far far too much leeway on here, countless times you’ve been rude to me.)

  • carl marks

    Its interesting that with loyalist doing their bully boy routine you go one about having a go at unionism just to have a go at orange culture, so let me get this right you see no connection as regards flags between the behaviour of the OO by that I mean the contempt they treat nationalist groups with and the manner that they use the union flag to provoke Catholics. Are not the majority of unionist politician’s members of the OO and do they not come out in mass to support the OO’s tactic of not talking to residents? I think fair to say that the OO and unionism are to all intents and purposes are one and the same thing.
    The tired old tactic of blaming the taigs for everything that unionists get up to is as old as Unionism.
    It seem quite obvious to me that Billy is looking over his shoulder at the BNP, they have stated that NI loyalist’s are a potential recruiting ground for the far right, their racist leanings are compatible to the BNP’s as is the love they have of wrapping the flag round themselves plus the tendency to get violent at the slightest excuse. Add to that the lack of any sort of political savvy and you have got what the BNP must think is a match made in Heaven.
    Nick Griffin turning up at Stormont for the big parade was to test the water, next we see a group appearing out of nowhere organising protests and putting themselves forward as the voice of disgruntled loyalist’s.
    The organiser and leader/spokesman was the person who organised Nicks MEP victory add to this the fact that the PUP is like the rest of Unionism is bereft of any coherent policies or any effective tactics.
    Billy has the added problem of being linked to a group (the UVF) which is notorious for the viscous feuds over who gets what out of which criminal activity.
    The BNP has I believe started a war for the Hearts and Minds of the Loyalist community and they have a eye on the supporters and members of the PUP, alas instead of trying to stick to their declared principals (Flag up for designated days only) Billy has decided to try to outdo the BNP in the oul flag-waving thing.
    Unionism needs people with vision and leadership quality’s instead they get the same old failed policies pushed at them from unimaginative leaders who cover up their failures by blaming the old enemy ,the BNP smell the weakness and think that there is a opportunity for them to form a power base here.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, I keep pointing out why you are wrong, you just ignore this and keep repeating the same incorrect observations.

  • DC

    Personally you are the stubborn one CS, as if Alliance had blocked the original bigoted motion you wouldn’t be in this position today, others on here have told you as much too but still you and Alliance, conditioned no doubt by the deputy who tends to fall back on her Presbyterian faith to get her through (how Paisleyite) – as per her revelations on sunday sequence – decided ultimately to push on in the face of unionist objection.

    Bit like saying you are no longer your father’s son and are now your own individual, in a position to act with nationalists, despite having the DNA in you of unionists as a result of having being brought into power off the back of unionist transfers.

    Basically, as others have said too on here, Alliance has unionist DNA in it so it should have done more to make the SDLP and SF work for this outcome.

    If the SDLP and SF had proposed designated days themselves Alliance could then have abstained meaning they would not have had any Alliance DNA on the motion and got out better. OK Alliance would have come under pressure but it would have had a bit of light at the end of the tunnel to escape out into.

    That light would have been that it forced both the SDLP and SF to deviate away from its fundamental positions of ‘no flag never’ and to initiate restricted days off their own bat and to carry that motion themselves 24 to 20? A tolerant enough approach so long as it is in the spirit of good relations.

    That to me is better politics all round because Alliance would have forced SDLP and SF to produce something that had gone against core policy, to deviate and to be seen to be flexible *themselves* not using an Alliance amendemnt. Albeit an amendment for 15 days or so a year, which clearly passes the ‘hold your nose’ test for nationalists, which as others have said on here the ‘SDLP would have bitten your arm off’ for.

  • DC

    But any way, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and a merry christmas to you all!

  • carl marks

    Interesting! If I understand the rather convoluted argument (we will ignore DC ignoring unionist’s regular displays of intolerance of nationalists and their regular treating of the Irish flag as a firelighter) Alliance is at fault for getting a compromise if they had of abstained from the vote or voted against the motion SF and the SDLP would have come cap in hand begging for a compromise. Then of course unionism would have had a victory.
    Instead we had those devious basterds in Alliance sticking to the policies they were elected on, and then those devious fenians agreed to a compromise (which was PUP policy for flags and also happened to be the same policy the DUP and UUP support on other councils in which they hold power) now all this sticking to principals and compromise was as any fool can see going to provoke the decent unionist people who then decided (through no fault of their own) to burn down the offices of elected representatives issue death threats to others, block roads, riot, and try to kill Police officers.
    The problem is of course the whole democracy thing there should be a mechanism where any decisions of importance (they don’t need to be bothered with any time wasting nonsense like education, health care or heating for the elderly) could be run by the local corner boys for approval,

  • DC

    ‘Convoluted’ = sophisticated politics outmanoeuvring SF so as to extricate Alliance.

    Billy Hutchinson speak to Martina Purdy – hope this helps to clarify:

  • carl marks

    Allaince acted on poltical principal, more than can be said about Billy, Peter,or Mike.
    CS is right you repeat your tired false points as a mantra, still unable to see that the people who brought the flag down was SF but the unionists and loyalists who disgraced it over the years.
    A few weeks ago I was involved in a search for a elderly Lady who lived in a loyalist area, she left a few notes in her home one saying the bills had been paid and her pension stopped from that date,
    The other apologising for the trouble she caused but could not face another cold winter, she jumped into a river and the body found the next day.
    Now if you want to help the loyalist community get out and do something about things like this.
    But then tackling problems like this are not as much fun as annoying the taigs or burning things!

  • DC

    Well if what you say is true, Alliance should ‘show leadership’ naturally in conjunction with SF and the SDLP stating this then.

    Must say, I didn’t quite buy Conall McDevitt’s views about not being drawn into flags politics and to move on – quite easy to contend for a Dubliner in as much as it would be for a UKIP type gentleman popping in Dublin politics and not giving a toss for the tricolour coming down.

  • carl marks

    Alliance Have shown leadership and have stood up to the bully boys, despite the abuse heaped upon then by Peter, Mike, Billy and the mob,
    This will pay dividends at election time as moderate unionism now has a voice at last that has the guts to face down the bigots.
    SF and SDLP have shown leadership by agreeing to a compromise and not whipping up their community in hysteria (DUP/UUP take note) the Nationalist community has shown great restraint by in large by treating the nasty sectarian protests with contempt and refusing to react.
    However i enjoyed your assertion that leadership by Alliance would mean some sort of link up with SF and the SDLP you haven’t got this whole politics thing have you! You see Alliance is Unionist and SF is republican so there is limited scope for a pact.
    You see it’s the DUP, UUP and PUP are sadly lacking in leadership and your automatic reaction is to demand it of others, typical of Unionists, still in denial there.
    By the way you never answered my earlier question” since there is no chance of you getting your way with your flag and since as soon unionists will be in the minority how do you plan to react to future and much larger symbolic changes in Northern Ireland”

  • DC

    As I have said earlier so long as change and transformation is done within the spirit of reconciliation and in an environment that is conducive to good relations then all will be fine.

    If not and more bigoted republican type motions come forward and get propped up by others then I can’t see things improving.

  • CoisteBodhar

    I can’t understand how this motion can be construed as bigoted. I understand the sense of loss the Unionist people feel but I can’t understand how anyone could call it bigoted.

  • Kevsterino

    Can a case be made that the compromise that passed at BCC was a bigoted motion? or was that the original motion that was bigoted? How was the motion propped up by others, anyway? The original motion did not have a majority and was dropped. The vote that passed was not the original motion (which I assume you designate as the bigoted one, unless both were bigoted somehow), but a compromise of parties that constituted a majority. In other words, local democracy.

  • DC

    Bigoted = intolerant, in this case to the flag.

    To remove it completely tends to show an intolerance, you still not quite work it out? If you still don’t then join Alliance.

  • DC

    Intolerant motions ought to be blocked, not modified.

  • DC

    From wiki:

    Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”.

  • CoisteBodhar

    And of course Happy Christmas to yourself DC.

    Nor do I understand why anyone should dance around in order to have a motion passed. Perhaps it is events like this that will help people to see what shared space means. People talk about education being a problem. I am aware this sounds a little harsh but perhaps this flag issue at the minute is the education that some elements of society need the most.

  • DC

    Dance around not so, but show flexibility, to show flexibility within nationalism would of itself prove that it was not ‘obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices’, which is what didn’t quite happen, as Alliance stepped in to save face, you need to see the original motion that was brought to the floor of BCC.

    In my view bigoted motions and motives deserved to blocked, not modified.

    No point polishing a turd?

  • CoisteBodhar

    In 2002 when Maskey had a tricolour in City Hall alongside the Union Jack he critised unreservedly by the unionist family. As far as I gather nationalism pushed for both flags originally and were told that would not be acceptable. Surely that is an attempted compromise and could be considered flexible.

  • DC

    Could be, but legally, which is the reality, it – the tricolour – couldn’t fly based on the existing constitutional arrangements, well not externally and publically, so in response there was an attempted removal of the union flag.

    You need to know that all this was brought about as a result of an equality impact assessment which is only about protecting belfast city council form a legal challenge which given the trouble to date it would have been better taking a few challenges in the face and in the public purse as it would have been cheaper.

    But to date, no challenges have come forward and with the current stance of 15 days or so none will now succeed.

  • DC

    just to say – hopefully finally – that there is still *no legal way* to fly a flag at council level and on council buildings, so it would have been interesting to find the law that litigants could refer to, you can’t eat a flag and on that basis a flag is unlikely to cause you a physical, mental or material detriment.

  • Coiste,
    Let’s for a minute imagine that Nationalist politicians adopted a similar position to Unionists. In other words demanded respect and recognition for their national flag and that it be flown in all Nationalist controlled Council town halls etc. and that the minority flag be excluded entirely.
    Might be interesting?

  • anne warren

    best wishes for a lovely Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year Celebrations.

    Please use some of the time over the holiday period to reflect on the meaning of democracy, what the democratic process is and how it works.

    Please use some of the time to think about what the UK flag really means and represents – a member of the Royal Household has said it shouldn’t be flown every day as it demeans its value.

    Please give the UK flag the respect it deserves.
    (That means not wearing it as shoulder capes, raising it in front of schools, leaving to deteriorate into tatters on lamp-posts, etc)

    Please decide to extend the same respect to the flag of every country including the flags of Poland and of the Republic of Ireland.

    Like Coiste Bodhar above I have stated from the start of this protest that capillary, grassroots educational encounters are urgently needed to explain to working class protestants the meaning of human rights and the GFA/Belfast Agreement.

    Your political representatives have not fulfilled this task over the years.

    You need people who will do so.

    Please look around and find them so that working class Protestants become aware of their rights and duties and realise that “Uber-Britishness” is no excuse for overthrowing the democratic process

    Please think about what slogans like “No Surrender” or “Not an inch” or “one of the other sort” mean in 2013 – or indeed if they mean anything at all

    With all best wishes for a more conscious attitude in 2013

  • Kevsterino

    But the original motion to lower the flag permanently was dropped. The one adopted by a majority vote is more comparable to the policy at the national capital in London. I still don’t see the bigotry in that.

  • DC

    Thanks Anne, I am not a flag fundamentalist, but understand the point at which when good relations are no longer maintained in spirit, which is more important than the flag. But i hope you can draw some insight from the fact that there remains no legal way to fly a flag nor is restricted days the only option available as any number of days is up for negotiation given that there is *no legal way* to determine how many days should be adhered to.

  • CoisteBodhar

    I still see nationalism attempting flexibilty from the outset on this issue and if it were reciprocated I am sure legal means could be found to accomodate.

  • DC

    Motives Kev – mens rea?

    Anyway it is now all in the court of public opinion.

  • DC

    Here is BCC legal counsel:


    44. I recognise that the issues addressed in these advices are politically sensitive. As I hope I have clearly expressed above, whilst the Council is right to be concerned about the risk of potential claims or challenges, and whilst it is proper for legal advice to be sought in relation to these issues, there is no ‘correct’ legal answer to the question of how and when a district council should display the Union flag.

    45. I trust these advices will be of some assistance to the Council, and its appointed consultant who is in the course of preparing the EQIA on the matter, in considering the possible legal implications of the various options which are due for consideration. If I can be of any further assistance, the Town Solicitor should not hesitate to contact me further.

    Full details found here:


  • forthman

    Was watching BBC Newsline tonight and witnessed a 4×4 car driver, driving through an illegal protest. The driver was quite understandably shaken when confronted by an sectarian hate mob. My question is this, if these mob rulers insist on using their children as human shields, were are social services? These people are easily identified, and their children rescued from being shameful political cannon-fodder. Its only a matter of time before a child gets seriously hurt or killed. Disgraceful!!!

  • DC

    whilst it is proper for legal advice to be sought in relation to these issues, there is no ‘correct’ legal answer to the question of how and when a district council should display the Union flag.

    Thank you and goodnight, goodnight to bigots too.

  • forthman

    Goodnight DC, I hope you sleep well. Is there any chance that you could forward me your address, so that I could organize a counter ‘demonstration’ at the bottom of your street? The idea would be to try and inconvenience you as best I could. I’ll even throw in my kids, in harms way, if it is more appealing. You’s are doing sterling work in maintaining the union with the voters that count, i.e. ” on the mainland”. Keep up the good work!!!

  • DC


    I am not yet asleep as i have a rather handy supply of beer and wine to get my day in with over christmas, but I do hope that you find some comfort in the fact that politics is the way forward and that negotiations should be entered into in a bid to improve on the number of days that the union flag currently flies, specifically given that there is actually no legal requirement for 15 days.

    Kind Regards

    former Alliance member and voter.

  • forthman

    So you don’t support putting the national flag of your neighbours up along side the union flag 365 days a year, in an act of communal solidarity?

  • DC

    i would support that so long as the financial benefits to NI were matched by the republic as per the amount the Uk puts in, that would be game on for sure, yes.

  • galloglaigh


    When your sore head lifts a bit tomorrow afternoon, and you log onto Slugger, you’ll be rightly ashamed of yourself. Your argument hit rock bottom around half six yesterday evening.

    I don’t even need to congratulate any other Sluggerites, as you seem to have dug that big hole yourself.

  • DC

    I thought I maintained myself quite well given the festivities going on in the background and all.

    What have you taken offence again (yet again)?

    It was a bigoted motion. That’s all. Enjoy your christmas and fgs cheer up!

  • DC

    Check this article out by Liz O’Donnell, go ahead!

    Liz O’Donnell: Removal of Union flag wrong and provocative


    The Alliance Party is now on the receiving end of the white heat of loyalist anger because of its role in the compromise vote on the union flag. But it was local DUP and other unionists who raised the temperature by distributing 40,000 leaflets blaming the Alliance for siding with Sinn Fein. The unintended consequences of such base politics have been horrific, ranging from riots to attempted murder.

    Consider this as a game changer. What if Martin McGuinness were to transcend his tribe and concede that, without cross-community agreement, the time is not right to remove the Union flag from Belfast City Hall? It would demonstrate respect for a community who need reassurance from nationalists, not triumphalism. It would be recognition that “parity of esteem” and “equality” are for unionists too. It would be a dignified act of reconciliation.

  • Neil

    How about this DC:

    The Crown body responsible for flag protocol in Northern Ireland has said that flying the Union flag 365 days a year is not a British tradition.

    Displaying the flag on a permanent basis is more in line with attitudes in other countries such as the United States, according to the College of Arms.

    In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the body, which is a branch of the Royal Household, said flying the flag permanently meant the designated days — including the Queen’s birthday — lost their distinctiveness entirely.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/crown-body-says-flying-union-flag-365-days-a-year-is-not-british-tradition-16252931.html#ixzz2FpHa0jxY

  • DC

    Seems reasonable Neil, but why didn’t nationalists propose that then at the outset?

    Although I don’t buy NI is just like the UK, it is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    If NI were just like the UK designated days really wouldn’t be an issue.

  • Neil

    The truth is the Shinners and SDLP voted to support a ‘more British’ policy as described by the Royal Household. Don’t you think that given the options:

    a) crow about the shinners voting for more British policy than is currently in effect or

    b) printing tens of thousands of leaflets targeting an East Belfast, non BCC MP and encouraging people to make their voice heard

    that the mainstream Unionist’s choice of action was cynical, politically stupid and potentially dangerous, and in the end up has contributed to the ridiculous situation where seemingly unemployed, tracksuit bedecked smicks are succesfully driving jobs out of the city over a fight that they cannot win, over and above what I’ve described above being easily viewed as a victory in the first instance?

  • Neil

    Seems reasonable Neil, but why didn’t nationalists propose that then at the outset?

    They missed a trick maybe. Given the outcome there would be nothing lost IMO in following your suggested course of action. Hindsight being 20:20 and all that.

  • DC

    Yes you are right re the protests, completely pointless and counter-productive bordering on idiotic, what was it Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results…

    Even English Defence League types are popping up on the union flag facebook page telling the so-called organisers this.

  • Decspur

    Liz O’ Donnell isnt very bright is she?

    triumphalism? Who has been gloating?

    It would be recognition that “parity of esteem” and “equality? By equality does she mean one part of the communities flag flying all year round, but the other communities never at all?

    It would be a dignified act of reconciliation? What for destroying Christmas for the people of Belfast? On no that was the loyalists.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, I keep telling you that Alliance could not block the original motion as this would have meant actively endorsing 365 days a year flag flying, violating policy. Violating your own policy and manifesto means causing damage to the trust that your voters put in you.

    But the really bizarre aspect of your theory is that SF and the SDLP, having spent the past ten years bringing this matter forward to council, would simply have backed off and come back with a soft alternative. I have no idea why you delude yourself with ideas like this. Isn’t it much more likely that the two parties would have gone on the offensive ? They would have accused Alliance of breaking its own policy pledges in order to secure a cosy relationship with the DUP and UUP. They would have said that Alliance are small-u unionists forcing British symbols on a city where there are more nationalists than there are unionists.

    That is before we even get into the legal aspects of this. It has been pointed out that flying the flag 365 days a year may well breach equality legislation. If that happened, the councillors who voted to retain the flag would be held legally liable. For this reason it’ll be interesting to see what the unionists are going to do over in Lisburn.

    The idea that you just kick this problem down the road again to be sorted out later, or push it back over to the SDLP and SF to sort out, is pure cowardice. Designated days is a good policy, nationalists have now endorsed it so it will be tricky for them to back away with it, and we now are in a position that unionists were perfectly happy with in other places. The question about why unionists choose to be inconsistent about flags depending on the circumstances is one that needs to be put to them. The “controversy” here, along with the disorder and damage that has been caused, has been almost entirely manufactured by unionists.

    A read through of your contribution of 9PM last night suggest that you have some sort of deep-seated problem with Alliance. I suggest whatever it is, you get past it.

  • galloglaigh


    You’re wasting your time.


    Like I said, the bigoted motion to remove the flag, is in reciprocation for a Summer (if not a Century) of bigoted unionist parades.

    Unionism needs to change; unionism hasn’t changed – You yourself are a prime example of that!

  • DC


    On the one hand hindsight is a wonderful thing but on the other hand after the leaflet went out petitioning Alliance to block the motion there would have been some real data in the hands of Alliance councillors indicating the level of concern unionists had with Alliance going with designated days given there was no cross-community support for this approach.

    I would be interested to know how many calls came in about the flag relative to usual Alliance-related issues only. That might indicate whether a stop and think approach should have been applied, I think based on the above that ‘we will not be moved and no surrender on designated days’ kicked in there, perhaps as result of a faith-based approach to ironically – liberal – politics.

    I believe blocking the motion wouldn’t have gone against Alliance policy, but I take on board your views and can see where you are coming from with that approach.

    Deep-seated, well you can say that if you want, but I just hope no one gets hurt out of this and that something is done to take the bad blood out soon.

    I have seen a video of Nick Griffin looking to organise more leaflets around this and hope his lot don’t start pestering Alliance as well, politicians are human and like people they should be allowed to make mistakes.

  • galloglaigh

    after the leaflet went out petitioning Alliance to block the motion

    So now it was a petition? No it wasn’t it was intimidation from the heads of political unionism.

  • DC

    Maybe Alliance should issue a leaflet pretty quickly, one pager or something, apologising for the offence caused and may have miscalculated the strength of feeling on this one, but that it hoped by doing designated days that it had the best interests of Belfast at heart? Or something along those lines to try improve things out there within its core constituencies.

    Also to head off the BNP.

  • DC,

    Alliance did not cause offence. Offence was taken by those who were easily DUPed and aroused. Remember when Paisley always did that but was conveniently on his way home when the fury he aroused got out of hand. Something like that happened these past two weeks.

  • DC

    Joe, obv some people within unionism have found it offensive, but OK let’s not get all rigid around the wording here, use any offence caused if you like.

    But the idea is to reason with the electorate, explain that their councillors may have miscalculated the strength of feeling but that the decision was made with good intentions around maintaining good relations over the long term.

    Alliance could then make a call to call off the picketing of their offices as like any democratic party it is prepared to be held accountable for its decisions which is at the next election on such and such a date and it would encourage people to make their impact at that point – be it positive or negative for Alliance.

    Something along those lines.

  • That’s better, DC. I think that fairly accurately describes it. They should also reiterate that their position is long established AP policy
    Perhaps we also need an apology from those who started it all.

  • DC

    I don’t think that is useful Joe – a short leaflet explaining good intentions, that the councillors may have been wrong in the eyes of the electorate but that is your call i.e. the electorate’s and if mistakes have been made then like any democratic party the Alliance party is prepared to be accountable for them.