Thoughts on the Flag protests

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The flag protests have now been going on for a month. During that time we have heard assorted apportioning of blame, descriptions of the events as marking a disintegration in loyalism (and by extension then unionism), calls on various people to display “leadership” and much merriment and contempt directed at the flag protest leadership: often vitriolic here on slugger.

The protests are at core a political issue. The riots are clearly criminality and some of those attacking the police may well have little interest in politics and no coherent reasoning even to themselves as to why attacking police officers is explained, let alone justified, by politics. The genesis of these events, however, is political: it is in the political decision by Belfast City Council to reduce the number of days on which the Union flag is flown over city hall.

Demographic shifts combined with the remarkably odd and restrictive drawing of Belfast City Council’s borders with large swathes of solidly unionist East Belfast in Castlereagh, unionist parts of North Belfast in Newtowwnabbey and bits of nationalist West Belfast in Lisburn, have delivered a council with a plurality for a number of electoral cycles. Alliance has held the balance of power and until late last year Alliance supported the continued daily flying of the Union flag.

When Alliance decided to support a change to the policy and have the flag only flown on designated days the UUP and DUP launched a leaflet campaign opposing the change. This was attacked by Alliance who accused the unionists of stoking up trouble. It is, however, unlikely in the extreme that these leaflets have caused the rioting we have seen. The simple fact is that removing the flag (which was difficult physically to see at city hall) was the sort of visible symbolism which is important to all sides in Northern Ireland. Removing the flag from that place is seen as symbolic of the erosion of Britishness in this part of the UK by unionists (and republicans may hope that that is true). Republicans and nationalists see it as part of the equality agenda. Both sides may also harbour more negative feelings of triumphalism over the other side from the retention or removal of the flag. Alliance on this issue are somewhat closer to broader nationalism than unionism along with their view of the “shared society” ethos (sometimes disparagingly called “letsgetalongerism”).

Therein: in the position of Alliance, lies a significant part of the resonance of this problem especially in East Belfast. As everyone knows Naomi Long famously won Alliance’s first (and thus far only) Westminster victory in East Belfast. The reasons for Long’s victory have been rehearsed repeatedly but in brief were a combination of factors, two were external to Long: firstly the electorate’s desire to give Peter Robinson a kicking over his supposed financial chicanery and the issues surrounding his wife’s adultery; and secondly the political ineptness of the UUP candidate Trevor Ringland. Added to those factors, however, was that East Belfast Alliance in general and Long herself have always played a soft unionist card. Long is an East Belfast girl born and bred: she still lives and works in the area, attends a local Presbyterian church and does all the things one would expect of a nice middle class soft unionist (a classic Ballyhackmore-ite). The fact that subsequently it has become clear that Peter Robinson did nothing wrong financially; that his wife was indeed ill and that he has softened his image markedly may well make many feel a trifle guilty regarding their desire, very prematurely, to dance on his political and reputational grave.

Travelling down the Newtownards Road: Long also gained significant support from the more working class areas with the ballot boxes from the likes of Mersey Street being very solidly for her. This support was gained in part from endorsement by the ex PUP leader Dawn Purvis in a vain hope that her support for Long would translate into transfers from further up the Newtownards Road and keep Purvis’s assembly seat.

Those working class (and many middle class) unionists who supported Long now seem to feel that they were tricked by Alliance who have shown themselves not to be a unionist party but rather a nonaligned one which over this part of the flag issue has sided with nationalism. That Alliance are not and for some time have not been unionist is irrelevant: the fact is that those working class unionist voters felt they were voting for a unionist party; a delusion Alliance in East Belfast were more than happy to encourage them in.

The above then is one explanation as to why the protests are centred in East Belfast and help explain the threats to Naomi Long and others. In no way does this justify threats to kill and assorted criminality but quite simply if loyalist paramilitaries support you and then perceive that you have betrayed them, they will respond with their default position: criminality. Those criminals are almost certainly also the ones involved in the orchestration of the rioting. In actual fact personally ghastly as the treatment of the Alliance political representatives has been it may have helped the party a bit in terms of the optics of their flag decision. Moving back up the Newtownards Roads and indeed in wider Northern Ireland society there was marked unionist annoyance at Allaince’s decision. Even relatively non political people were far from happy with the decision The fact that the change brings Belfast into line with, for example Craigavon, is irrelevant: it was seen as Alliance supporting a republican agenda. That annoyance would have cost Alliance dear come the next Westminster (and Belfast City Council) elections especially in Long’s seat. However, such is the opposition to the rioting and the disgust at the threats to Long and co that some of this anger against Alliance will be assuaged by sympathy. As so often loyalist terrorists in their actions actually help unionism’s opponents but as well as having little political acumen many loyalist terrorists seem to miss the irony in so many of their actions.

Attempts to stop the riots and even the protests have now been made by both unionist parties with assorted commentators decrying the lack of leadership by the likes of Robinson. The mainstream unionist leadership is, however, in a bind largely not of its own making. Indeed they did produce the leaflets but that is what political parties are meant to do: attack their opponents; the unionist leaflets were a political attack and such is the nature of politics throughout the democratic world. The unionist parties were very annoyed by Alliance’s flag decision as were very many ordinary unionists: to highlight Alliance’s position was normal politics. What was also normal politics was to take part in peaceful protests as a number of unionist politicians did at the start of the protests. When the violence started, however, politicians left the protests. These unionist politicians when they were involved in the peaceful parts of protests were castigated by the same media types who now demand leadership from the unionist politicians but ignore the genuine anger amongst unionists about this decision. The leadership many in the media require is an end to the protests but the politicians are in a bind: ignored if they call for an end to protest; castigated if they attend protests and try to keep them peaceful. This is not a case of the UUP and DUP whipping up people’s emotions. This is a case of Alliance and many in the chattering classes misreading the depth of feeling over this issue and ascribing blame all round them for the problem.

Alliance have of course the right to take any democratic decision they want, but some of the anger from them and the media is probably also from their own realisation that actually people are less liberal than they are. This is of course magnified by the media and middle class conceit that the working class unionist population are actually much more liberal on the union than their political representatives (a delusion at times shared by nationalists as well). Those who believed in this nonsense pointed to Long’s election as the proof of their point. Although most of their anger stems from the criminality on display a little probably stems from the gradual realisation of how wrong they were.

Still they can just call them “fleg” protestors: it even has the letter “e” in it like pleb.

As an after thought we could always stop the protests by putting the flag (or fleg) back up. That of course would be completely unacceptable: it would be rewarding violence and criminality. That would never happen here in Northern Ireland would it now?

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  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    The sad thing about all of this is that the adults alleged to be orchestrating the violence will escape untouched whereas some of the young people involved will likely end up with criminal records. It is difficult enough for young people throughout the E.U. to get jobs; it will be much more difficult with a criminal record. More young lives cynically condemned.

  • BarneyT

    I think those with real insight would see that the Alliance were not playing politics as such when they tabled their amendment, but were advocating compromise. Most of us “get” why the Union flag was flying on a permanent basis and in our week province, it is highly inappropriate to do so. I believe many will agree that the Alliance would have been informed by UK wide convention on this matter.

    There is also a generally accepted consensus that ”…. these leaflets have caused the rioting we have seen”….or helped stoke the level of grievance. The rhetoric used by the DUP and TUV i.e.. “torn the flag down” further inflamed and remember these statements accompanied the so called peaceful protests.

    “Removing the flag from that place is seen as symbolic of the erosion of Britishness in this part of the UK by unionists…”. Unionism is a broad church and many are intelligent which your statement does not seem to advocate. I think you are doing a disservice to the unionist community here, unless you see the terms Unionist and Loyalist as interchangeable? Thinking and reflective people will indeed see it as firmly on the equality agenda, and an alignment with the wider UK….or borough closer to home.

    I would be interested to see your explanation of your statement “..if loyalist paramilitaries support you and then perceive that you have betrayed them”, particularly with respect to the Alliance gaining loyalist paramilitary support…if that is indeed your assertion.

    If you talk to an average moderate unionist, and there are plenty, their “strong feeling” are inspired by the timing of the event so close to Christmas (which they regard as thoughtless), the impact it had on retail and the want and desire to avoid stirring the hornets’ nest. Most will respond with, “Why could they not have waited until the new year”.

  • David

    Having just visited Belfast where I lived for some 50+ years, before emigrating to Donegal, I was bemused by the inconsistency in the approach to the flying of any flags. I noted on travelling up the M2 that a large tricolour flies (24/365 from previous visits) on top of a large block of flats in full view of both nationalist, loyalist and those of us with no persuasion. It is more prominent than the City Hall flag ever was and is actually on a public building – it is owned by the Housing Executive. Should the Council and public representatives not be acting to ensure that shared future everyone wants is consistently applied. This is a good article highlighting the problems created by our politicians when they don’t stop to think things through.

  • Greenflag

    ‘it would be rewarding violence and criminality. That would never happen here in Northern Ireland would it now?

    Of course it has .Several times . Starting in 1912 , continuing in 1918 and into 1920 and into the modern troubles era . The State of Northern Ireland was built on an anti democratic foundation .

    Some of us were hopeful that the GFA would enable the fledgling NI democracy to take root and hopefully it will . The current street protesters are not interested in democracy . Quite the contrary :(

  • Framer

    Nice to read you again on Slugger, and very measured, with hardly a nasty remark about the Alliance Party.
    Personally if I hear any mention of a ‘shared future’ again I’ll scream, while hunting for the off button to avoid more hectoring from Naomi Long.

  • Banjaxed

    Actually, Joe, the saddest aspect of this is Turgon’s article itself. Once again his analysis demonstrates a purely one-eyed view of the entire problem. While acknowledging the demographic shift in the Belfast population with a nod in the third para, he then goes on to ignore it entirely and with it any Nationalist/Republican calls for a shared society.

    The flag from my point of view (N/R) has been, and is being used, as a triumphalist battering ram to stuff ‘Britishness’ down non-unionist throats. Why else has it suddenly appeared at all interface areas in Belfast where, if it is not removed, will end up in tatters by July when its replacement, in the same areas, will be assured to back up another triumphalist display of coat-trailing marching just in case we forget who call the shots.

    And yet again he repeats the lie that the flag has been removed. It has not. It flies on designated days as is current practice in the rest of the UK.

    All in all, Turgon’s article is another tired attempt to blame everyone but the leaders of unionism for their fanning of sectarian flames, their mealymouthed condemnation of violence (Turgon excepted) and their total surrender of responsibility in face of paramilitary thugs.

  • ayeYerMa

    “Republicans and nationalists see it as part of the equality agenda. ”

    Hahahahaha! That is a laugh Turgon! They see it as part of a destabilising Republican agenda and no more. As you are aware “the equality agenda” is purely something disingenuous for our pathetic media to lap-up as they know the media are too incompetent to challenge it. All animals are equal but Republicans are more equal than others. Oink Oink!

    It’s also amusing to hear BarneyT tell Unionists what they somehow really are thinking just because a few out-of-touch Republican and Republican Alliance commentators are pretending that the leaflets would have made one iota of difference to the reaction to such an provocative decision in aid of the Republican cause.

  • Kevsterino

    I really wonder these days if there are people who require controversy either to maintain their political positions or because they have little to do otherwise.

    I think loyalists are angry because they perceive the GFA as a conveyor belt for concessions to republicans. Loyalists appear in the political arena as entirely unskilled in practical democracy. They don’t see the use of compromise and regard it as inviting the next round of concessions. As long as that premise holds currency in loyalist areas progress will not occur, regardless of whether a flag flies at City Hall 24/7/365. It simply won’t matter.

  • Pint of Plain

    Turgon,

    We get it, the democrats had it coming for passing the motion (to align flag policy with other cities in the UK).

    Any ideas on how to (and who will) communicate to the slow learners with violent tendencies to accept that the fleg will fly at the same times as similar UK cities?

  • Greenflag

    Kevsterino ,

    ‘Loyalists appear in the political arena as entirely unskilled in practical democracy.’

    Full marks for the obvious . But then it should’nt be a surprise . For generations a large section of working class loyalists were largely ‘catered for ‘ and ‘pandered to’ by what was then called ‘Big House Unionism ‘ .As in all such power shifts the disempowering of the latter has just progressed downhill to the formerly favoured who are now forced to compete in at least ‘more ‘equal’ environment . Throw in the effects of de-industrialisation , the loss of traditional industries in textiles , engineering and shipbuilding and there’s not a whole lot left for these poor sods to hang onto bar perhaps Rangers , the flag , and much diminished life options . It’s not a particularly NI Loyalist phenomenon . It’s a trend found in much of the urban and now suburban areas of the USA , UK and elsewhere . What makes it uniquely different for working class loyalists is that once upon a time they were favoured by the ‘system ‘ and now the ‘system ‘ is neutral .

    What’s exactly wrong with having the same standards as other UK cities with regard to flag flying ?

    They (working class loyalists’ have been hung out to dry by their Unionist political masters > Not that there’s anything else that those Unionist masters could do anyway for they too were forced into acceptance of British standards of democracy and norms . Admittedly they had to be dragged forcibly over a period of 40 years or more and some are still dragging their feet . I can’t see the UK putting up with another 40 years of the ‘tail ‘ wagging the dog .

  • Greenflag

    banjaxed,

    And yet again he (Turgon ) repeats the lie that the flag has been removed. It has not. It flies on designated days as is current practice in the rest of the UK.

    I would’nt accuse Turgon of lying in this instance , His article was fair enough as it stands . He just omitted to mention the fact that Belfast is now conforming with the rest of the UK’s practice in regard to flag flying . I don’t believe any reasonable neutral individual could make the claim that the Union jack flag is an endangered symbol in Belfast . Anybody visiting some parts of the city from June to September any year will see it hangfing from myriad lamposts , bandstands as well as being sold in umbrella format , funny hats etc etc .

  • tacapall

    I can understand fully with unionists and loyalists the despair caused by the flag of their identity being flown less often from the prominent position atop the city hall in the capital city of a piece of land they believe belongs to a country they identify with and who they believe own it, but they must understand not everyone agrees with them, this has been disputed since the formation of this state and indeed the whole of Ireland for almost a thousand years. We have moved on from our past differences I believe (Ireland and Britain) have built a relationship that has advanced further than most of us even know or would believe, you still being British and governed by the same people and me not having to be reminded everyday of the price Irish people have paid since Britain first set foot in Ireland, is hopefully a good starting point for the future and another step forward in that relationship.

  • Kevsterino

    Economic displacement of blue-collar folks has been going on around here for at least 50 years, Greenflag. I expect it isn’t much different in Northern Ireland. It provides demagogues and charlatans of all sorts opportunities to exploit the fear and pain of those who can see themselves disadvantaged by the changes caused by the reduction of perceived economic activity. If folks have the added thorn in their side of feeling their ancestors’ advantages taken from them, it is like pouring gunpowder on an open fire. It is certainly a component here in the racist views espoused by “poor white trash” types.

  • forthman

    How can all this be the fault of the Alliance party? All they did was to reach a sensible, democratic compromise.
    The blame for all this thuggery lies firmly at the door of the east Belfast UVF, no-one else. I saw their ‘community worker’ mouthpieces on sky news the other night blaming all the trouble on those dasterdly fenians of the Short Strand, and the PSNI of course. If this was not the case, then how come east Belfast accounts for nearly all the trouble?
    Willie Frazer blatently lied on the Boulton and Co. program today when he said that hundreds of protests have taken place across ‘Ulster’. Therein, giving political cover to the east Belfast UVF.

  • MALCOLMX

    David,

    How you can equate the flying of a tricolour on the top of a block of flats in the new lodge with the union flag flying 365 on the city hall, the prime civic building in the 6 counties is beyond me. New lodge flats were not responsible for unionist domination, discrimination or the blocking of democratically elected nationalist and Republicans from positions on committees or the position of mayor.

    Obviously your drive up here missed the 1000′s of newly erected union flags throughout the north, particularly at interfaces. The are very few tricolours hanging from lampposts and rightly so, I dont want my national flag treated like some rag to mark out territory.

  • Greenflag

    Kevsterino ,

    If folks have the added thorn in their side of feeling their ancestors’ advantages taken from them, it is like pouring gunpowder on an open fire.’

    Indeed . The other salient point in this instance is the fact that their elected politicians are seen to be -perception no longer an option -powerless to do anything other than implement the ‘bankster’s diktats be they in London , Frankfurt or Wall St . In a very real sense our elected politicians are seen by many to be no longer the representatives of the people but representatives instead of the large corporations and the financial sector services gouging paper money by hook or by crook and just pay the fine and carry on regardless institutions .

    ‘It is certainly a component here in the racist views espoused by “poor white trash” types.’

    Par for the course .The Weimar Republic could have evolved into a modern democracy had the then ‘financial services ‘sector not shot itself in the foot again in 1929 and later . The German middle class was destroyed and the lower middle and former working class and the 10 million unemployed fought it out between the two totalitarianisms . The Brownshirts Fascists won and the Communists lost. The former were naturally supported by the discredited old guard of the Weimar Republic and Germany’s capitalist class .

    Of course a scapegoat had to be found and sure enough one was . German Jews who formed about half of 1 % of the population were anointed as the destroyers of Germany along with Gypsies , Gays , Socialists , Communists etc etc etc .

    20 years later in 1945 . 5 million Germans were dead , another 11 million ethnically cleansed from the Eastern Europe and another 45 million including 6 million Jews and others exterminated -so that there would be a Final Solution ? Anyone looking at the Middle East today will hear other “Final Solutions ‘ being proferred . One by a right wing Israeli Party which is attracting electoral support . Their solution sounds vaguely Paisleyite at it’s prime and includes the words No -Never_Ever – NO and NO to any consideration of a Palestinian State as a compromise or alternative to never ending war :(

  • mr x

    Kevsterino
    Don’t know if you’re familiar with history of trade unionism in England post-1945 but the events in East Belfast remind me of the miner’s strike in 1984-5. Violent
    white working-class men , many drunk, ambivalently supported by their friends and hated by their enemies. Of course there were surprising friends and enemies there. Many Labour Party leaders were glad to see the unions defeated and many Tories hoped a union win would lead to benefits for themselves.

  • derrydave

    Turgon, I think you fail to give most unionists the credit they deserve. The vast majority of unionists appear to not in fact be particularly bothered by this turn of events – the numbers protesting are absolutely miniscule – a tiny minority within a minority. I appreciate the fact that you should have your finger much more on the pulse of Unionist thinking – why, therefore has there not been one single protest against this decision with significant numbers attending ? Even despite the fact that, initially at least, every Unionist party seemed to support the protest ??? In the absence of any other sensible explanation I can only assume that the vast majority of Unionists don’t really give too much of a xxxx. Which again, to me, underlines that the Unionist population are much more sensible and mature re these issues that their elected representatives. The proof of the pudding of course will be in the next Westminster election in East Belfast !

  • keano10

    Derrydave is totally correct. I work in an office with a mixed workforce and the vast majority of Unionists have been very vocal in their condemnation of the protestors. These are peoplee who have been continually disrupted by roadblocks, leaving them late collecting their children from school, missing medical appointments, unable to shop in their own City Centre coming up to Christmas, having to explain to their own children why cars are being burnt and policemen attacked. The vast silent majority of Unionists have given these illiterate yobs a bye ball and the media has shamefully failed to reflect this in their coverage over the past 6 weeks.

  • DC

    Well then Naomi Long should have a by-election, for us or against us, put up or shut up.

  • derrydave

    Yeah DC Naomi Long should have a by-election because a bunch of morons in East Belfast block roads, riot, and threaten her life. That’s democracy, eh ? Why in fact don’t you just shut up – Idiot.

  • Gingray

    As Greenflag has already noted, Northern Ireland was founded as a reward for unionist violence and criminality, which must be the point that Turgon was getting at above. Perhaps he, like so many of the protestors, feel this is re-enacting the 1912 covenant in its abhorrence for democracy and threats of civil disobedience. After all, it led to the creation of the Protestant state for the Protestant people, maybe they think which led to the creation of Northern Ireland in the first place.

    I think Turgon is totally wrong, no matter how well written and articulated his point may be. Living in a very Unionist part of east Belfast where flags go up for the 12th each year, I have seen no protests in our area, nor a groundswell of support for them (how many people are actually involved in the protests, and how many protests in Belfast are not at interface areas, where, according to the Facebook site, the fenians are also up for some mayhem).

    Imagine this had been those idiots up in Ardoyne making this trouble. The Unionist apologists and politicians who condone the current protests would be calling on the PSNI to arrest them all for bringing the city to a standstill. Until they do, this will continue to happen and my worry would be that it follows the usual pattern.

    That normally ends up with the senseless murder of some random innocent. At that point the apologists for this kind of violence disappear leaving the scumbags they encouraged on to the streets to take the fall, and forgetting their role in encouraging it.

  • NOT NOW JOHN

    “What’s exactly wrong with having the same standards as other UK cities with regard to flag flying ? ”

    I really wish someone would answer this question.

    My observations over the past few weeks is that the section of ‘unionism’ involved in the protests and riots see the Union Flag not as the flag representing the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland but as the flag of unionist dominance in Northern Ireland as was prior to 1972. The change in BCC policy upsets them not because there is any threat to the Union as a result of it, but because it is evidence of the demise of Unionist domincance. The fool of a woman shouting ‘No Surrender’ through the City Hall door is exactly the same sort who get upset by ‘them stopping us marching down our roads’.

    This would explain why most unionists (i.e. those who support the Union but have either never been unionist dominance types or have since wised up) don’t seem to give a hoot about the change in BCC policy. And why should they? It has no impact whatsoever on their form of Unionism,

    Of course the question remains what sort of Unionism does Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt belong to? The answer to this might be found in one’s view as to whether the flag should fly in accordance with the rest of the UK as a symbol of the Union which those of us who support the Union value … or whether it should fly every day as a symbol of Unionist dominance which some, GFA or no GFA, don’t wish to see eroded?

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Just throwing some thoughts and a question out there on recent issues. This comes after comments made by various shinners on the lack of Unionist leadership in recent weeks.

    If the shinners are genuine and I hope they are, that they are fed up with the lack of Unionist leadership??? Then we share that in common.

    If the shinners desire strong Unionist leadership, with the inevitable stronger Unionist parties and stronger more confident Unionist communities. I as a Unionist say more power to their elbow and I will back this shinner campaign all day long. I have been wanting stronger Unionist leadership, parties and communities for some time, In fact long may it continue?

    I would like to be the first to congratulate the shinners, because since the summer the shinners have done more in wakening up the working class and a lot middle class Unionists to both main Unionist parties sloth.

    I would go as far to say an awakening that a million posts on Slugger or any blog could ever have done.

    Now I come to my curious question, what does strong Unionist leadership, strong Unionist parties and strong Unionist communities give to the shinners and the cause of republicanism and a case for a united Ireland???

  • DC

    @derrydave

    Turgon is right, it was an anti-corruption ticket that won it, so would be interesting to see if the support is still there.

    And don’t be so bitter and trying to shut down my idea, it’s only an idea, an option. I have a right to express a view.

    So, anyway, where was I?

    Oh, yes, so where are all the democrats now.

    Come out, come out wherever you are!

  • Jack2

    DC – you’ve said that before, and I’ll give you the same response.

    There are currently 100-200 people involved in rioting.
    1.8 million people are not rioting. The tail does not wag the dog.

    Don’t forget the protest posters that read “Democracy doesn’t work”.
    It works when in majority, is broken when in minority , lets try again when rioting doesnt work.
    You want it both ways,every way and only your way.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Excellent article Turgon.
    I particularly like your use of the word “letsgetalongerism”.
    While I would not agree with every word, it is well reasoned.
    Frankly I am still at a loss to understand why Alliance did what they did. At the most basic level, they could not possibly have thought thru the consequences of their decision. It was inept.
    The longer term….I just can’t work it out.As you observe disappointment at the Alliance decision is balance somewhat by sympathy.
    How that plays out in 2015….I just don’t know. I was reflecting earlier today how little I know about East Belfast….and while Long DID win the seat, Alliance have gone close before . They had the perfect storm in 2011.
    Perhaps a joint unionist candidate is a possibility in 2015.
    And yet it is uncomfortable that everything is centred on East Belfast…as it gives the impression that it is all about Naomi Long…..or indeed ahem community activists in that area.
    Memorably Robinson lost the Belmont Bowling Club….and arguably the rioting turns them further away.
    But….where is the Minister for Justice.?

  • derrydave

    I’ll tell you what it would give to Republicans (and to everyone else) AU – a much more peaceful life where responsible politicians work with their counterparts to ensure we all have a better and more peaceful life regardless of the decisions which may be made over the next 50 years regarding reunification. If te kind of shit going on in East Belast right now hadn’t been given cover by the main Unionist parties for years and years then I very much doubt it would have happened at all ! Make no mistake about it AU, their are bigger shocks to the Unionist / Loyalist population of the North in the post – leadership is about providing a strategy to deal with these changing times which does not involve self-destruction.

  • DC

    The only way is East Belfast By-election.

    For us or against us, put up or shut up.

  • derrydave

    You’re just like one of those morons on the streets in East Belfast – do you think if you just repeat your nonsense over and over again then you will get what you want ?
    As is already blatantly obvious – the vast majority of NI is quite clearly against you. You will get your chance to vote Naomi out in a few years time. That is democracy – I know you don’t like it, but that’s just tough.
    And just one more thing – yer ‘fleg’ won’t be going back up 365 days a year again – get used to it and move on.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    DD. Are you saying that strong Unionist leadership, along with stronger Unionist parties and communities, this will inevitably lead to a UI???

    Is this some sort of shinner wet dream???

    When it comes to responsible politicos I think the shinners are not on very solid ground here. Where the shinners not found guilty of libelling a chap a few weeks ago!!!

  • David Crookes

    Here’s the best solution. Look up flegpecs on Google images.

  • David Crookes

    Stupid me — flegspecs.

  • derrydave

    AU, it’s pretty obvious if ye actually read my post that that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that responsible and strong leadership will lead to a better more peaceful life for all REGARDLESS of whatever decisions are made re reunification over the next 50 years. Have put ‘regardless’ in capitals this time as you seem to have completely missed it last time around !

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    When you talk of a peaceful life just what are you referring to??

  • Neil

    Let me give a counter example DC. The Shinners declared their support for law and order which alienated a sizable minority of the people who voted for them. Had those people taken to the streets and rioted would you have said it would have been democratic to insist on a by election because the Shinners changed their stance? Even if the numbers involved were a derisory section of their vote?

    34,612 people voted in East Belfast during the Westminster election which returned Naomi. Are you seriously saying that it is necessary for democracy that that vote should be overturned by a few hundred people? You’re a smart guy, so I know you can see that’s utter nonsense.

    Democracy is absolutely not an unrepresentative mob of a few hundred people overturning the result of an election where over 34,000 people voted through violence because they dislike a democratic decision.

    It’s worth noting that the protestors seem to have it in for Peter too. So you would submit that we should disregard the votes of bang on 70% of the electorate because of this small crowd with nothing better to do (a number of whom I suspect don’t bother to vote at all).

  • GEF

    The wee woman shouting “No Surrender” through the City Hall door remembers me of “Orange LiL” Pity Willie Frazer has given up his trip to Dublin he could have brought her with him. Open and then Click to watch “Clip of Orange LiL on the train to Dublin. Video made in early 1970′s.

    http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/topics/arts/A725997.shtml&sa=U&ei=n_PtUPyDHsPT0QXA7IHABQ&ved=0CBwQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNEq7qtBKobi7XvydnTwfZMBbsnTJw

  • derrydave

    AU, people not blocking roads, burning cars, attacking their neighbours and the police, wrecking the place…..that kind of thing.

  • derrydave

    Neil, agree with everything you’ve said, though it has to be said it’s all pretty obvious stuff that really shouldn’t need to be spelled out other than to the most challenged amongst us.
    I presume your reference to DC being a ‘smart guy’ was a little tongue in cheek ? :-)

  • DC

    If it could (which i think it would) get all this to stop then i think it’s worth it.

    Clear the air time or reinforce the position and clamp down.

    And Alliance doesn’t need to do much campaigning the media has saturated this so it would be interesting to see where all parties are at with a shared future and who gets what in terms of the share of the vote.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “[Naomi Long] does all the things one would expect of a nice middle class soft unionist”

    Turgon, Naomi is promoting APNI neutrality policy on the UK v UI policy ie she is not promoting a unionist stance.

    Her contribution has been the most sensible I’ve heard, unlike the silliness of some of her male colleagues, not to mention the irresponsible actions of unionists and nationalists.

    She rightly pointed out that recent threats to APNI have come from extreme unionists and nationalists yet you’d think that some on Slugger view the flags issue as a more serious one than the murder and attempted murder of police or prison officers.

    “When Alliance decided to support a change to the policy and have the flag only flown on designated days”

    This looks like a misrepresentation of events in BCC. It’s my understanding that the recommendation from committee was that the Union flag would not be flown. Had APNI abstained then the flag would not be flying.

  • Comrade Stalin

    GEF,

    Here is a working link to the Jimmy Young sketch of Orange Lil accidentally getting on a train to Dublin.

    Notable in the footage is the original Enterprise train introduced in 1970, and the forlorn-looking old Great Victoria Street train station, reduced to a mere rump from its majestic disposition of a few years prior.

  • DC

    Had APNI abstained then the flag would not be flying.

    Kind of shows you why the Alliance Party shouldn’t be touching things like that, it should have blocked that motion, as the neighbours clearly haven’t moved on so why did Alliance think unionists had?

    Signs of reconciliation and progress would have been to have both the SDLP and SF initiate a motion along Alliance lines then Alliance could have considered abstaining.

  • Granni Trixie

    So very disappointed in Turgon in not putting hands up for circulating 40,000 sectarian leaflets which have undoubtedly whiped up the emotions of protestors. The follow up leaflet was worse,infact iI wondered why the Psni did not take a case of incitement to hatred.
    It has poisoned the atmosphere within which politics operates.

    The DUP and the UUP to a lessor degre have to answer. The reason I think that the DUP have the greater part to answer for in this crisis is because their Leader gave ambiguous signals which impacted on the what people perceive as their view on the rule of law.

  • DC

    It has poisoned the atmosphere within which politics operates.

    If that was the case around the time of the vote why move ahead on the issue once you felt that heat going up?

    I know it might be bowing to pressure post the leaflet and based on the leaflet but surely politicians have to ‘find another way out’ i.e. slip the punch or make sure you at least block it and don’t harm yourself and the community.

    I can only surmise – and I don’t include you in this Grannie T – that Alliance has become embittered towards political Unionists, rightly so or otherwise, but in the process a combination of Alliance pride, arrogance and temper pushed this one through (in the face of strong petition by Unionists not to)?

  • GEF

    Thanks CS, thats indeed a better link to the Orange LiL video.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Signs of reconciliation and progress would have been to have ..”

    DC, unionists and nationalists may mouth those words but they’re at either end of a tug-of-war rope.

  • Sammy Bannister

    DC: sorry, you can’t have your by(e) election on foot of a few riots. The people have not spoken. They spoke at the ballot box in 2011, and will return to the ballot box in 2015, if the con/dem coalition holds, or unless Ms Long decides otherwise. You may as well suggest we hold council elections now to try and change the makeup of BCC, and I don’t see that going your way…

    Please get happy drunk again, you are more pleasant that way.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks for a substantial and thoughtful posting, Turgon. Near the end you say of certain meeja-and-middle-class persons, “Still they can just call them “fleg” protestors: it even has the letter “e” in it like pleb.”

    If someone misspells either the word SUMIT, as for example on a neo-Covenant document, or the word SEIGE, as for example on a medal which commemorates Drumcree, we are all entitled to smile.

    The present case is similar. It wasn’t meeja-and-middle-class persons who put the E in ‘flegs’. It was the flegs protesters themselves. To say that ‘flegs’ “has the letter ‘e’ in it like pleb” is to import an emotional vocable from an irrelevant news story.

    In fact ‘flegs’ is a humorous Ulster Scots form which belongs in the same stable as ‘oul hegs’ ( = old hags).

    Now to your real point, with which I agree altogether. While genuinely cruel mockery will take us nowhere, a genuinely new future will incorporate rather than exclude the flegs protesters.

    PS Years ago I man whom I know was sent his annual letter from a well-known Belfast golf club. At one point the treasurer said, ‘Please pay your membership fees of £700 per anum as soon as possible.’ Being a Latinist as well as a doctor, the man was able to write back, ‘I shall be pleased to pay my fees in the usual manner — through the nose.’

  • USA

    “The genesis of these events, however, is political”
    Yes it was. It was an cynical attempt by the DUP to wrestle the East Belfast seat away from the Alliance party. The 40,000 postcards helped stir up the scare mongering. Nesbitt is so ineffectual he let the UUP get dragged in. Before long the offices of political opponents are being burned, elected representatives being put out of their homes, death threats, bullets in the mail and wide spread rioting. Unionism saw the #fleg decision coming for at least a year. Yes it was a political decision for Unionism to use the facist boot boys, rather than show leadership and explain the realities of the GFA to their electorate.

    “large swathes of solidly unionist East Belfast in Castlereagh”
    Why don’t you ask Unionism why they decided to set up their own little feifdom in Castlereagh back in ’72. Watch what you wish for.

    “Alliance decided to support a change to the policy”
    Factually incorrect. SF proposed a change to the flag policy. Alliance did not support the proposed change. They set out a compromise position based on established British practices. SF and the SDLP then supported the Alliance proposal to fly the flag on designated days. Everyone in Belfast knows this, it had been coming for a long time. The DUP, UUP, Alliance, SF, SDLP etc all knew how the vote would go, that is why Unionism has failed it’s electorate and the whole city. Their position does not hold water. They cynically used the #fleg issue to attack (literally) the Alliance party in the hopes of winning back the East Belfast seat. Disgusting.

    “The simple fact is that removing the flag (which was difficult physically to see at city hall) was the sort of visible symbolism which is important”
    1. The #fleg was not removed, for example it flew today and will continue to fly on designated days.
    2. It is absolutely not at all hard to see, it’s right up front. Have you ever even seen the flag, are you even from Belfast?

    The fact that subsequently it has become clear that Peter Robinson did nothing wrong financially; that his wife was indeed ill and that he has softened his image markedly may well make many feel a trifle guilty regarding their desire, very prematurely, to dance on his political and reputational grave.
    1. Robinson called his own investigation and found himself innocent.
    2. His wife is probably shopping in London, using the flat thhey own. Or maybe she is shopping in Florida at their US villa.
    3. Softening his image was part of the “woe is me” political PR.
    4. He won’t be convicted of anything for the same reasons MMcG won’t be either. Political Stability.

    “unionists who supported Long now seem to feel that they were tricked by Alliance”
    Don’t kid yourself. They are equally disgusted by the rioting. Robinson and his aparatciks have betrayed the East-Belfast voter again (and the PSNI) by creating the circumstances for civil disorder to become the norm. Not the first time the DUP have provided cover for the boot boys when it suits their political agenda.

    “The above then is one explanation as to why the protests are centred in East Belfast and help explain the threats to Naomi Long and others.
    No, the DUP pointing the finger at the DUP and telling the knuckedraggers “it was them that done it”. That is what explains the attacks on Naomi Long and many others. Pure and simple. No waffle, no excuses.

    “loyalist terrorists in their actions actually help unionism’s opponents” How about Unionism reads the GFA again and explains it to Loyalism. Then Unionism can begin to help itself and stop worrying about ‘enemies’. Your Catholic neighbor is not your enemy, she lives in the same city, with the same problems, hopes, tv stations and shit weather.

    “mainstream unionist leadership is, however, in a bind largely not of its own making”
    It’s totally of their own making. They brought the thugs onto the streets. Basil McCrea is the only Unionist who has articulated a consistently reasonable position regarding flags. I can’t believe Nesbitt played this so badly. And as for Nesbitt and the forum with Robinson? They both already know anything they decide must be agreed by SF, so I would not be shocked to learn other matters were also on the agenda.

    “the genuine anger amongst unionists about this decision”
    Catch yourself on. Where was the “genuine anger” when DUP and UUP agreed to designated days at Parliament Buildings or Lisburn or all the other councils. Wise up.

    “This is a case of Alliance and many in the chattering classes misreading the depth of feeling over this issue and ascribing blame all round them for the problem”
    A disgusting comment.

    “Alliance have of course the right to take any democratic decision they want”.
    Damn right they do and any amount of waffle from you won’t change that.

    “we could always stop the protests by putting the flag (or fleg) back up.”
    It went back up again today. A load of twaddle dressed up as analysis. Open your eyes, get a cup of coffee and read the GFA again until you understand.

  • USA

    DC,
    I think the Beano is available online, perhaps you might like it better over there?

  • USA

    Correction, part of the previous post should read:
    “the DUP pointing the finger at the Alliance party and saying ” it was them that done it”

  • Banjaxed

    Excellent post, USA. I think you’ve covered all the bases there.

    May I say in passing in answer to Kevsterino’s response to an earlier posting of my own about Turgon ‘repeating the lie’ of flag removal. Well, I’m sorry Kev, it WAS a lie. Same as Jeffrey Donaldson saying yesterday on BBC24 that SF/SDLP refused to compromise in BCC on the flag issue. The compromise was the designated days proposal. Same as Mike Nesbitt’s claim of of N/Rs ‘chipping away at our Britishness’. How does that square with over 3000 (!!) odd parades per annum? Billy Hutchinson’s claim of ‘feeling like a second class citizen’. What planet do these people inhabit? I can hear them, yes, but I hadn’t realised until now that we are in direct communication with a parallel universe.

    Until Unionism faces up to the fact that Belfast City and,on the wider front, Northern Ireland, has and is changing (Do the math, as they say!) since they were in their ascendancy, we will never have peace on our streets.

    We HAVE to live together, to tolerate each others’ differences and get on with the rest of our lives. The tragedy for Unionism is that it still tends to look at our problems through permanently tinted orange coloured glasses.

  • DC

    USA, i don’t need to read a beano when I can get a joke from your own name.

  • DC

    Further support of Turgon’s argument:

    http://extremisproject.org/2012/12/making-sense-of-the-latest-violence-in-northern-ireland/

    But we should also see the intimidation of Alliance politicians in the light of the soured relationship between many working-class Protestants and the Alliance party. This goes back to at least 2009, when the Alliance MLA Anna Lo criticised loyalists for a number of racist attacks in her constituency. The resentment has escalated, however, since 2010, when Naomi Long was elected MP for East Belfast, in part as a result of receiving large numbers of votes from the Protestant working-class in protest against the standing MP, Peter Robinson. The electoral rejection of Robinson was partially a direct response to the ‘Irisgate’ scandal, but it was also based on a long-standing resentment towards the DUP. Since Long entered Westminster, however, the Alliance party has become something of a new target; loyalists blast the party for being a place for middle-class Protestants burdened with a guilty conscience and a faux commitment to ‘non-sectarian’ politics. Given its historical domination by Protestants, the party is seen as just one in a long list of those by which loyalists feel betrayed.

  • DC

    further details:

    The following year, at a conference in the Ulster Museum, I witnessed the anger loyalists felt towards Naomi Long and the Alliance party first hand when a number of Protestants living near the Short Strand interface attacked Long for her handling of the interface disorder in early 2011. Their diatribes that day were mixed with palpable fury, fear and desperation; several speakers repeatedly ignored the chair’s pleas to calm down, and it took some time before order was finally restored. Having witnessed such naked anger I am sad, but not particularly surprised, that the East Belfast MP and others in her party have found themselves directly targeted by this intimidation.

  • MALCOLMX

    DC,

    Your comments on this thread just epitomise all that is wrong with unionism/loyalism and its inability to accept when its wrong and someone else isn’t to blame.

    This flags issue and trouble lie squarely at the feet of loyalism and unionism and their failure to move with the times, to rid themselves of their sectarian supremacist mentally and their misguided belief that they have a god given right to be in charge in this artificial statelet whether in positions of power or only their culture being on display.

    The sooner unionism and loyalism open their eyes and realise that the peace process is just that a process and didn’t stop in 1998 and the sooner they are honest with themselves that one of the reasons why loyalist areas suffer so much of the problems that they do has nothing to do with republicans and more to do with loyalist paramilitaries and their bleeding dry of everything with their own communities the quicker they will realise who the real enemies if Ulster are.

  • DC

    The committee’s opening proposal was to remove the flag, so let’s not kid ourselves that things have moved since 1998 if policy positions around identity remain the same on both sides.

    All i can read is nationalist after nationalist falling over themselves to contribute to slugger as to how this was just such a brilliant move by Alliance.

    Also, given political nationalists haven’t changed their policy of neutrality post 98 what is stop Alliance’s motion of designated days being overturned and brought into line with the other majority nationalist councils that don’t fly it at all?

  • BarneyT

    Which community can live best better without their flag flying?
    Is it not clear that the flag could have been removed entirely had it not been for the Alliance? But from what I can detect, the Alliance party is expected to toe the unionist line and endorse all of the nationalist in-your-face zeal that goes with it.

    Let’s not confuse ourselves; we have more than green nationalism horsing through Northern Ireland veins.
    How dare the Alliance take a more neutral stance. How very dare they drive their own course 

  • Banjaxed

    DC

    ‘The committee’s opening proposal was to remove the flag….’

    And your point is….?? That proposal would have been defeated and therefore a COMPROMISE was offered and ACCEPTED by the MAJORITY in a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED council. Why, in the name of God, is that so difficult for trolls like you to understand? Do I have to spell everything out to you slow-learners? The numbers game has changed. Perhaps it would help your mental grasp of politics if all non-unionists euthanased immediately. Now that would solve your problem, wouldn’t it?

    However, if you continue wilfully and by choice to live in denial of the new realities in NI there’s nothing I or my fellow citizens can do to help you. And if you wish to talk to each other and only each other in a telephone box, God help us all and your Wee Ulster.

  • Greenflag

    USA ,

    ‘ Your point about the flag going back up today did however give rise to further thought which may help alleviate the feelings of all of those loyalists and unionists who are miffed and even worse in some cases about the flag NOT flying every day from atop City Hall..

    Lets face it – when the flag is flying everyday nobody cares or knows which aristocrat is enjoying birthday cake with Queenie & Co . Who would have known or cared less that Jan 9th was the new Duchess of Cambridges 31st birthday? Belfast Loyalists , Monarchists and Unionists will see the flag raised again on Jan 20 th . They may pause to ask each other why and wherefore flyeth the flag? . Those in the know will remind them it is the Countess of Wessex’s birthday . By the end of the year those followers of the British Aristocracy will be masters and some indeed experts at knowing when it is the Duck of Edinburgh’s birthday and Prince Charles etc .

    Now if that does’nt bring a warm glow to the hearts of a royalists and loyalists and monarchists and slavering followers of the lives of the royals everywhere then what will ?

    It’s an education and nothing else this designated days business . In a couple of years Belfast Loyalists when entering Pub Quizzes and the like will be asked which British member of the Royal Family has a birthday on the 17th March ? A trick question though -those answering St Patrick will lose points .

    These designated days could even become an election winner for some . I can already hear the UUP candidate in full voice shouting down a political opponent in Castlereagh in 2016

    ‘Yer man is no loyalist ffs ‘

    ‘Why not ‘?

    ‘Sure he doesn’t even know that today is the Duck of Edinburgh’s birthday ;)

  • tacapall

    “what is stop Alliance’s motion of designated days being overturned and brought into line with the other majority nationalist councils that don’t fly it at all”

    Nothing at all as thats what nationalist politicians like the SDLP and Sinn Fein are elected by the nationalist people for. Im sure nationalists living around Dundonald would have been deeply offended by that councils decision to fly the Orange Orders flag over their council offices but as its majority unionist controlled and they seem to have the option of flying whatever flag they like then surely Belfast City council have the option to have no flag at all regardless of what the minority unionist population think.

  • DC

    The fascinating thing about this which you guys overlook is that it is as much a critique of the centre-ground as it is unionism.

    There were other ways out.

    Call it a study into maintaining good relations, human relations.

    If you stick by decades old policy then in my opinion nothing has changed. So if nothing has changed then it would be reasonable to assume the consequences.

    A 7 million pound fallout.

  • tacapall

    Yeah I get your drift DC, if your stupid once you might as well stay stupid all your life.

  • Greenflag

    banjaxed ,

    ‘God help us all and your Wee Ulster.’

    God if there was a God which there isn’t – would’nt do flags . God has thus never cared about wee Ulster and has never saved Ireland or blessed the USA either and will not save the Queen when her time is up , But if it makes you feel happy that there is a supernatural being out there who monitors and records the actions and thoughts of everyman then fine .

    On the other hand there are non supernatural data gatherers and cloud computers who do monitor your every purchase on line and off line and who inundate you with a never ending stream of sales offers based on your profiled marketing taste which they know better then you do yourself .

    George Orwell got it right but he was just 30 years out in his timing .

  • USA

    DC,
    If, as you say “there were other ways out”, please do share one or two examples with us.
    ps… as usual the rest of your post makes no sense what-so-ever. As it’s still early afternoon over there in Ireland perhaps you should ease up on the Magners and definately take a bus home, don’t drive.

  • D.A.

    “This goes back to at least 2009, when the Alliance MLA Anna Lo criticised loyalists for a number of racist attacks in her constituency”.

    Crikey, how dare someone criticise them for being a bunch of racist scumbags and breaking the law.

  • Paulk

    I fear we are going round in circles here but i’ll have one more go… the flying of the flag on designated days was the compromise – nationalists wanted it on zero days, none, nil, 0.

    Flying the flag on designated days was perhaps a nod to the fact that there are unionists in Belfast and that Alliance’s counter proposal, which is their party policy, was a reasonable and sensible compromise by nationalists which unionists – if they chose to could sell to their electorate as such, needless to say they went the opposite route which was to attack the Alliance Party for implementing a long standing party policy because compromise = surrender in unionist/loyalist eyes – with a wee eye to the East Belfast seat of course.

    The resultant protests and violence (in my opinion) would be worth it after a few days it would peter out, the DUP would get back the westminister seat and hey presto all is well again. Except they didn’t bank on the UVF not stopping when they said enough was enough, now they’ve no idea what to do and are setting up talking shops here, there, and everywhere.

    The only place they aren’t doing anything is where it really matters – Stormont. The unionist electorate have been fed lies by their political masters for so long they can’t understand why everything seems to be going against them and themmuns are getting everything its because thats what the DUP et al. have allowed and indeed encouraged them to think. Can they not realise that nationalist areas are deprived as well? that nationalists can’t get a job? that nationalists can’t afford to buy homes? that the whole of the working class are in the same boat as they are?

  • Kevsterino

    I know this is simplistic, but why not jail those breaking the law on the streets? Let the ones who are demonstrating peacefully have their say and put the lawbreakers in front of a judge. In my opinion, Mr. Ford is being derelict in his duty by not pursuing those who are infringing upon the rights of the citizens to move about freely and in safety. It seems to me the place requires a Minister of Justice with a bit more of a spine.

  • Paulk

    DC you seem to be saying that the status quo should have been maintained because nobody was rioting when the flag was up 365 days….. do you realise that the union flag wasn’t acceptable to nationalists and hasn’t been for many years? Just because nationalists haven’t been marching into town and blocking roads doesn’t mean they didn’t want it taken down.

    “Call it a study into maintaining good relations, human relations.” Where or when did this maintaining of good relations occur to unionists over the past 90 years in BCC?

    £7m cost to preserve a democratic vote in the face of fascist violence and threats? it is worth it.

  • Banjaxed

    Jeeziz, Greenflag, leave it out.
    Invoking God’s name is an unfortunate habit which I regrettably lapse into when me dander’s up. It’s an alternative way of keeping down the ‘faffs’ which I probably should have used in order to get a few simple facts across to those who choose not to hear.
    Please insert ‘Jabberwockey’ or any other suitable fantasy creature of your choosing should I err again.
    Will do better next time, if God spares me. :-).

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    A friend sent me this and I thought I’d share. Turgon, please delete if you think it’s inappropriate.

    So this is for the benifit of all my friends who are confused or alarmed by the recent images being broadcast around the world, given that we are now 15 years into the peace process..

    The capital of Ireland is Dublin . It has a population of a million people, all of whom will be shopping in Newry this afternoon. They travel to Newry because it is in the North, which is not part of Ireland, but still pay in Euros.

    Under the Irish constitution, the North used to be in Ireland , but a successful 30-year campaign of violence for Irish unity ensured that it is now definitely in the UK. Had the campaign lasted any longer the North might now be in France.

    Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland . It has a population of half a million, half of whom own houses in Donegal. Donegal is in the north but not in the North. It is in the South. No, not the south, the South.

    There are two parliaments in Ireland . The Dublin parliament is called the Dáil, (pronounced “Doyle”), an Irish word meaning a place where banks receive taxpayers’ money. The one in Belfast is called Stormont, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘placebo’, or deliberately ineffective drug.

    Their respective jurisdictions are defined by the border, an imaginary line on the map to show fuel launderers where to dump their chemical waste and bi-products. Protestants are in favour of the border, which generates millions of pounds in smuggling for Catholics, who are totally opposed to it.
    Travel between the two states is complicated because Ireland is the only country in the world with two M1 motorways. The one in the North goes west to avoid the south and the one in the South goes north to avoid the price of drink!

    We have two types of democracy in Ireland . Dublin democracy works by holding a referendum and then allowing the government to judge the result. If the government thinks the result is wrong, the referendum is held again. Twice in recent years the government decided the people’s choice was wrong and ordered a new referendum.
    Belfast democracy works differently. It has a parliament with no opposition, so the government is always right. This system generates envy in many world capitals, especially Dublin .

    Ireland has three economies – northern, southern and black. Only the black economy is in the black. The other two are in the red.

    All versions of the IRA claim to be the real IRA but only one of them is the Real IRA. The North’s biggest industry is the production of IRAs. Consequently, we now have the Provisional, Continuity and Real IRA. The Real IRA is by far the most popular among young graffiti writers simply because it is the easiest to spell.

    I trust this clarifies things and has answered many previously unanswered questions for you

  • Kensei

    Poor stupid Republican here. The last time I checked, the way to overturn a democratic decision you don’t like was to form a new majority to overturn it. Has Unionism lost all their seats on Belfast City Council when I wasn’t looking? Have they nothing to offerin return for more flag flying that might have Nationalism, never mind the Alliance bite? I might say something on funding Nationalist cultural endeavors, or the Irish language but lets pick one that doesn’t cost money. Union Jack 364 days a year, tricolour alongside St Pats. Or if a little weak, duration of Feile. Which do you think SF want more do you think, less Union Jack Or more Tricolour?

    But apprently the option of democratic compromise has not been raised. Again pur.stupid Republican, but it strikes me that a lot of people involved in this are full of sh.. sorry sorry yellow card for that. Some of the people involved in this are not entirely sincere.

  • tacapall

    “So this is for the benifit of all my friends who are confused or alarmed by the recent images being broadcast around the world, given that we are now 15 years into the peace process”

    What a post Joe. A description of Ireland in a few paragraphs from the past to the present that manages to portray the Catholic population as fuel smugglers and thieves and even throws in the different factions of the IRA and how young nationalists just write IRA all over the place because they are too stupid to spell anything else. I was wondering when I was going to get to the bit about drug dealing loyalists and the different factions within loyalist paramilitaries that are involved in the recent violence at these flag protests, actually what this post by Turgon is about but there was nothing in it other than an anti catholic rant.

  • DC

    Re good relations – Alliance is supposed to be cross-community, why attempt a shared future outcome especially whenever there is no shared future agreement.

    From hope to hurt.

    DC you seem to be saying that the status quo should have been maintained because nobody was rioting when the flag was up 365 days….. do you realise that the union flag wasn’t acceptable to nationalists and hasn’t been for many years? Just because nationalists haven’t been marching into town and blocking roads doesn’t mean they didn’t want it taken down

    That’s not what the consultation returns showed! IT was important to Unionists, the rest didn’t even know it was there and cared less.

  • Paulk

    How many people were consulted in the city? I live in Belfast I certainly wasn’t, and i’d say SF/SDLP (SF certainly) know their electorate and what they want a little bit better than anything any consultation documents might say.
    I have to state i don’t much care whether it flies or not but the conduct of unionist parties, and various spokespersons with their half condemnations (when they can be found to talk to the media) shows them for what they really are democrats, only when it suits them or their agenda.
    Perhaps I could also state that a public meeting was undertaken for people to turn up to the Ulster Hall on the 13th September and give their views – 3 people were there, yes it was indeed an extremely important issue to unionists then too.

  • BarneyT

    Ok…off one track but back on the “thoughts” track, has anyone any “bold move” ideas up their sleeve?

    BBC: Theresa Villiers calls for ‘bold moves’ over flag tensions

    Ban all flags?
    Erect Union and Ireland Flag?

    I’d love to know what she considers to be “bold”…but I translate it as potentially contentious?

  • DC

    Yes I’ve heard, the TV screen within the grounds of City Hall is show the Union flag every hour on the hour.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Here’s what happened to the DUP leaflet that started all of this.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=3939590089974

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    BarneyT
    The likely bold move is a one size fits all solution imposed by NIO and possibly related to the new eleven councils.
    As things stand there will be winners and losers…….for example leaving aside Belfast………the likely outcome will be that western and southern councils wont fly the British (or any) flag. But in the areas around Belfast the flag will be flown 365 days a year.
    This would probably be detrimental to (say) nationalists in Moyle where Id presume no flag presently flies in Ballycastle (Nevin will know better than me)…but when Moyle disappears the flag will fly on council buildings in the new council area………..and I would assume that might mean council property in Ballycastle.
    The effect would be that the south and west would be cold for unionists and north-east cold for nationalists.
    Therefore I would certainly see someone trying to impose a universal rule probably involving designated days which could probably be sold by UUP/DUP as a “victory”.
    I am not of course suggesting that I would support that…maybe that is the “bold” move. But what Villiers is effectively asking for is a “re-think” and that seems to involve the Alliance Party dong a U-turn (dressed as for the Common Good).
    Naomi Long seems to have emerged as the de-facto Alliance leader. I have not seen Ford on TV recently……….and he might be legitimately thinking that it would be a conflict of interests for him as Justice Minister to be making statements that appear partisan.
    Certainly there is an irony that he owes his mandate from the assembly on the basis of Alliances cross party acceptability.
    Whatever about public statements, there is probably an internal debate in the Alliance Party about the wisdom of the December decision and how to get themselves off this hook.

  • Brian Walker

    A note of caution about the famous democratic decision. You know your system is working when your opponents accept it. If they dont’ that doesn’t necessarily mean its your fault. But you are all still left with the problem. What so you do next?

  • Brian Walker

    sorry, typo on last question..

    What do you do next?

  • BarneyT

    And that is the most unfortunate aspect of this…The Alliance Party are being held unfairly to account. Perhaps they could have given this some more consideration, but surely they have the right not to walk on political egg shells.

    The small kid is getting a kicking in the playground and all they said was, “boys, stop fighting”.

    Am I right in thinking that an Alliance absention on the substantive motion would have resulted in a vote to completely remove the flag?

    So the only way they could have avoided the bait to freely swim away was to vote with the Unionists. Perhaps an absention would have been the way to go as they are now perceived as “acting” to “tear down” the flag

    Maybe someone else can respond on this. How would wider unionism and loyalism have viewed the Alliancem and consequently have reacted) had they abstained and avoided any amending motions?

  • BarneyT

    Hold on…SF and SDLP are off the hook in many ways, as they effectively (as Irish nationalists and republicans) voted to fly the Union Flag on significant royal dates…mostly. That would also include raising the Union Flag to mark St Patricks day..oh the irony.

    That could represent a massive shift in favour of the union and its emblems, hence can be viewed as contributive as far as the unionists go. I am deliberately twisting this in some ways.

    However, the Alliance, a party expected to uphold the unionist status quo and to occupy the unionist-lite space, have voted to reduce the presence of the flag. That represents a shift towards the Irish nationalist flag agenda from their preceived position!

    They were trapped and bamboozled.

  • DC

    How would wider unionism and loyalism have viewed the Alliancem and consequently have reacted) had they abstained and avoided any amending motions?

    Better to have honest enemies, than fake friends?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Brian Walker

    “What do you do next?”

    The options are limited.

    I honestly think a ban on all flags for at least 10 years on all property not in private hands is the best solution.

  • galloglaigh

    Here are some more thoughts on the unionist rioting, from the real people of East Belfast who want nothing to do with terrorist led violence.

  • USA

    DC,
    Still waiting on your examples of “other ways out”. Shall I interpret your silence as meaning you don’t actually have “other ways out” and that you were just talking shite, again?

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Blarney…in fairness to the Alliance Party they made a decision which was consistent with their own principles and which had an element of “wisdom” as they would see it.
    It lacked foresight.
    At the time I thought…and still think that they made a grave error or were naive. The combined nationalist vote …24 would have beaten 20 unionists with AP abstentions and the six AP members could simply have voted against it….but I feel they were trapped by both nationalists and unionists.
    I am still not sure if they expected both nationalist parties to accept their compromise but from that moment they were on a collision course with unionists.
    Had they abstained…the nationalists would have won. And that would still have put them on a collision course with unionists.
    The point is what briefing notes are being given to VillIers and what conversations she is having with parties.
    There seems little room for AP at the moment at least to change their minds.
    But certainly most unionists would consider it a victory if the 19 days was enshrined by statute…..and the flag was flying in Omagh, Enniskillen, Newry and Derry.
    But will Stormont still exist in three years time.
    I am now of the opinion that the contradictions of Creative Ambiguity have finally caught up with us.

  • Kensei

    @BrianWalker

    Well you can, as I suggested, see if there is a democratic alternative can be constructed? Has anyone attempt to put together a democratic alternative along the lines I suggested or otherwise? MMMMMMMMM.. that’d be a no. They had a huff and organsied their own council. With blackjack and hookers.

    If you’re opponents want to huff, then you can enforce the law until they get enough electoral support to overturn it, or stop huffing.

    Which part of this dangerously radical plan is difficult to follow? If not, can I block the streets in protest in paying my rates until it’s someone else’s problem? I’d really rather keep it you see. I want to buy some flags.

  • Alias

    “What do you do next?”

    You read your own survey on flaying the flag at City Hall, scrolling down to the lines which say that only 3% of the population find it offensive and that the overwhelming majority do not find it offensive.

    Then you put the flag back up and apologise for all the trouble you caused.

  • galloglaigh

    3% of the population find it offensive

    What survey?

  • MALCOLMX

    Alias,

    We all know that’s not going to happen. The butchers apron isn’t going back up 365.

  • DC

    DC,
    Still waiting on your examples of “other ways out”. Shall I interpret your silence as meaning you don’t actually have “other ways out” and that you were just talking shite, again?

    Alliance to block the removal motion until such times as both SDLP and SF propose designated days themselves.

    Same outcome, except no Alliance fingerprints on the decision.

  • MALCOLMX

    DC,

    Firstly your suggestion is absurd and immature and secondly had alliance abstained there would be no flag at all, they would have got it worse from violent unionism.

  • DC

    @Malcolm

    How is it now?

    Alliance was always going to block a complete removal so here are steps.

    1) Alliance blocks all removal attempts – ad infinitum.
    2) Alliance to ask the SDLP and SF to go back and think again.
    3) At some point SDLP & SF come back with designated days and own the policy, propose this at council.
    4) Alliance abstains – vote carries 24:20.
    5) Alliance policy introduced, no Alliance fingerprints or DNA on the outcome – decision comes in and off its radar.

  • MALCOLMX

    DC,

    You very naive to think that were that to happen then violent unionism would have went ‘ok that’s democracy, alliance have the democratic right to abstain, we respect democracy us unionist’.

    It’s absolutely absurd your take on this. They would have been treated worse as after all they are a small u party.

    And given how violent unionism has reacted over this you think they would have respect alliances democratic right to abstain.

    Seriously are you Willie Frazer or Jamie Bryson or the fella with a liking of evostik in disguise?

  • Kensei

    @Alias

    Perhaps you read to the bit where a majority favoured both a tricolour and union jack, then stick both up?

    Or maybe you think surveys is not a democractic vote, and run with the normal process?

  • babyface finlayson

    BarneyT
    ” has anyone any “bold move” ideas up their sleeve?”
    Well we can’t have 1 flag as Nationalists wouldn’t be happy, and we can’t have 2 flags as Unionists wouldn’t be happy.
    How about 27 flags to represent the EU, which we all hate equally. Allows both the union flag and the tricolour to flutter in the midst.
    Of course we can bump old glory up a couple of notches on the Queen’s birthday.

  • Pint of Plain

    Kensei,

    ‘I might say something on funding Nationalist cultural endeavors, or the Irish language but lets pick one that doesn’t cost money. Union Jack 364 days a year, tricolour alongside St Pats. Or if a little weak, duration of Feile’

    Surely, for the one day, as a compromise (from where we are now), the tricolour solo might be accepted. And what a day! Now, we’d only have to convince the 15-year olds and racists flying in from England (the non-voting guardians of NI democracy apparently) to back it and we’d have the roads free again.