#Flegs: They haven’t gone away you know…

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There was a lot of upset Crusaders and Cliftonville supporters on Twitter at the weekend. Apparently flag protesters from other parts of Belfast (let’s call them predominantly Blues and Glens supporters) turned up at the away turnstiles to prevent Cliftonville’s majority Catholic support ingress to the ground.

Result: the season’s big game between the two top clubs in the local Premier league gets call off.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed elsewhere that the target was Cliftonville (currently sitting on a nice buffer of 14 pts and one game in hand over the Blues). Or that Crusaders was just as much a victim of this action as those from the club just up the road. Phillip Murphy in the Huff Po:

The great shame in all of this is the damage it does to both clubs, who provide more for local working-class communities than just about any organisation in their environs. Both clubs provide opportunities to participate in football for men, women and children alike, making them a key component of the North Belfast fabric. The clubs have worked together, fostering strong cross-community relations in recent times, setting an example for the young people of the area. Saturday will sadly however have cost Crusaders thousands of pounds and will possibly have further alienated current and potential supporters of local football. All this, at the hands of a protest beyond the control of football’s powers that be.

Football has in many ways reflected politics, especially those of the working classes in the region. In bygone decades, Northern Ireland’s political instability and football have clashed to devastating effects on the terraces. Times have changed however. The league is now a safe environment, with crowd trouble and sectarianism now confined to rare, isolated incidents. What yesterday demonstrated was a complete indifference to the protesters on the most-part from both fans, who it must be said, handled the pandemonium with impressive dignity in their large numbers. The gesture of some Crusaders fans to walk hand-in-hand with their footballing rivals, unheard of in the poisonous atmosphere of many football rivalries.

More ominously, it’s another signal that this summer is going to be worse than the last. Enter the leadership vacuum (it hasn’t gone away you know)… My good friend and long time commenter on Slugger, Ian Parsley is clear about unionist culpability in backing the flag protests in particular.

But we should not ignore the fact that the political process has been slowly unravelling for a number of years, and not least in north Belfast. The paradox is that however much people cry out for moderation, as Peter Geoghegan put it near the beginning of this crisis: with so much “passionate fury” in the air, the prospects for Northern Ireland’s shrinking middle ground look worryingly bleak.

With the words of Ass Chief Constable Will Kerr telling us from the front page of the Irish News that we should expect the worst for the summer, in the immortal words of Blackadder we’re headed for conflict because…

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Are you trying to say that if the protestant residents of Skegoneill Avenue simply ignore IRA chants from a coat-trailing, rampaging mob of Cliftonville hooligans through their area

    No, but it must be highlighted that the people who are blocking progress on coming up with a common way to deal with disputes concerning who can pass through what area under what kind of restrictions are the unionists.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    CS 10.05 Aided and abetted by the RUC whose re-dressing up in 2001 has now been made a complete nonsense of by Matt Baggott who, and let’s not mince words is a coward as are his officers who want a quiet life and fear the unionist mob where they don’t worry about 30 nationalists bring 15,000 on the streets so when Ardoyne comes around, will start doing the job they are supposed to do , while appeasing loyalist/unionist thuggery. They might as well go back to the old RUC name because they are it in all but name name for catholics thanks to Baggott’s cowardice.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Comrade Stalin: No, but it must be highlighted that the people who are blocking progress on coming up with a common way to deal with disputes concerning who can pass through what area under what kind of restrictions are the unionists.

    What’s that got to do with my point which you replied to?

    GARC have said they will oppose any and all church processions along the shared Crumlin Road. How can you blame anyone else for blocking potential for dialogue and compromise?

    Who exactly are unionists supposed to compromise with???

  • tacapall

    UPC when did GARC say they would oppose any Church processions along the Crumlin Road, are you suggesting 12th July parades, tour of the north, etc are church parades.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Yes, church/religious processions. You might want to refresh your memory on their catchy slogan:

    ‘NO PARADE = NO VIOLENCE’

    Says it all really.

  • tacapall

    I dont think normal people make their way to Church carrying banners commemorating people who murdered residents from the area they are passing UPC. I dont believe anyone from the nationalist would object to a group of people making their way to Church like a normal society would. Orange Order parades on the 12th July are not Church processions no matter how much you try to give that impression.

  • Blue Hammer

    UPC

    The PUL case is best served by those who deal in reality.

    The Tour of the North, the mini-twelfth, the Twelfth and the vast majority of Loyal Order parades are not church or religion based. To suggest they are is disingenuous at best. Most of the participants have no christian faith, and wouldn’t darken the door of a church from one year to the next aside from the 20 mins of uncomfortable shuffling they undergo mid-parade.

    The Loyal Orders are cultural expressions. In the main such expressions are made by groups who are of the view that their culture is the superior one, and they tend to make no bones about saying so.

    The manner of this behaviour makes them easy targets for SF sponsored “residents groups”. Yet they are too daft to see this. Sad.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    And it seems too many from the Unionist community are sucked into believing the Sinn Fein/IRA propaganda dished out by these ‘residents groups’…

  • tacapall

    What propaganda would that be UPC ?

  • The Raven

    Christ, this thread is depressing.

    As is my need to acknowledge it as such.

    *starts looking for jobs overseas*

  • babyface finlayson

    UPC
    As you mention the blocking of dialogue I will ask again,
    Do you think it is good that Crusaders and Cliftonville engaged in dialogue before their (aborted) match or would it have been better not to bother?

  • David Crookes

    Crusaders and Cliftonville will play their rearranged match on Monday 25 March. Local political leaders should encourage the police to declare that any troublemakers will be arrested, charged, and punished if found guilty. An unequivocal press release from the North Belfast MP will help to start the ball rolling.

  • FDM

    @David Crookes

    Crusaders and Cliftonville will play their rearranged match on Monday 25 March. Local political leaders should encourage the police to declare that any troublemakers will be arrested, charged, and punished if found guilty. An unequivocal press release from the North Belfast MP will help to start the ball rolling.

    ————————–

    Well said. I doubt Nigel Dodds will say a thing. Mark Langhammer the Crues director gave the politicoes a great broadside on the day of the loyalist violence outside Seaview. I think they are still stinging from it.

    I expect to hear complete radio silence from Dodds and that other creep McCausland.

    Football should not be a political football.

    I’ll get me coat.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, FDM. I’ll be there as well.

    Leading people involves being prepared to cause offence, and being prepared to lose. It’s better to lose an election because you offended thuggish voters than to win the election because you took care not to offend anyone. Will Deputy Dawg turn out to be the dog that refuses to bark in the night? The watchdog that is content to be a lapdog?

  • arsetopple

    Please forgive me if this has come up before but there are so many posts about flags that life is too short to read them all.
    I enjoy the comedy show The Big Bang Theory & one of the principle characters does a web cast called Fun With Flags ( I kid you not). In it he talks of the uniqueness of the Oregon flag as it has two different sides. How about we adopt this idea & have a flag with one side being the Union flag & the other the Irish tricolour or the Ulster flag. The flag would be neither of course but a new flag in its own right.

    Depending on which way the wind is blowing your flag of choice would be on display.

    Simples.

    And no I have not been drinking a lot of green beer

    link here

  • FDM

    Cliftonville have been offered a measley 200 tickets for this rescheduled game at Seaview “on police advice”.

    So the league champions are going to be seen by a select few of their supporters.

    Except that the Cliftonville support are going to boycott the game. None will attend.

    Hence no more paydays for Crusaders at Seaview for the North Belfast derby as the Reds will not be in attendance on the Shore Road until they get their act sorted out.

    An absolute disgrace of a decision. Thank goodness we won the league last weekend and this is a dead rubber.

    Where is DC to explain why fleg protests should be interfering in sport in this disgusting fashion?

    He’s probably pre-occupied throwing darts at a picture of Naomi Long, whose red hair so inflames his passions.

  • Blue Hammer

    It’s an absolute scandal.

    If the Blues can be got in and out of Solitude for a match as important as last Saturday’s, then the Reds should be able to get their full support into Seaview.

    Hopefully we’ll see the day soon when the Blues can attend Solitude just like any other ground. But I can’t argue for that if the same courtesy cannot be extended to Reds fans visiting any ground too.

    As FDM said on another thread, watching the Reds play this year has been a pleasure (apart from when they tortured us, nearly every time we played them), so blocking people from seeing them , and losing potential long-term fans, is madness.

  • babyface finlayson

    FDM
    “Except that the Cliftonville support are going to boycott the game. None will attend.”
    That is a shame. I can’t say I blame them after what happened the last time,but it does rather give the morons who disrupted the first match the outcome they want.
    Is the boycott because of what happened the last time, or because of the small allotment of tickets?

  • DC

    Hi FDM

    There’s hope for Naomi Long yet, holed up on a diet of humble pie seems to be working wonders for her, i guess the flags dispute has brought her down to earth then, which is good, if not long long overdue (no pun intended). If this keeps up even i might join Alliance.

    Re Cliftonville, it’s a sad day when the police wont police football in fear of certain sections of the public, besides who really wants to host a bunch of thatcher coffin carriers? :)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Shameful personalized comments reveal the true nature of your embittered personality, DC.

    FDM, steady on there – it is not the Crusaders club who need to get their act together but the political leadership in this place who threw their weight behind the ugly scenes we saw a month ago.

  • DC

    comrade ‘i love martin mcguiness’ stalin, why must you view my comments negatively, that one above was a positive one for once.

    Here’s a negative one – vote Alliance to eliminate unionist identity, within unionist areas the clarion call for Alliance is:

    Vote Alliance to eliminate yourself!

  • DC

    I was just thinking there comrade ‘i love martin mcguinness’ stalin, you can be a bit pass remarkable and personal yourself; but – as a plus – it got me thinking.

    let’s take a look at Alliance and who it courted but then let down on purported key policy areas.

    To the liberals it courted, it let them down on gay marriage.

    To the progressives it courted, it let them down on abortion.

    To the young voters it courted, it let them down on shared future (party officials walked away from share future talks).

    To the unionist voters it courted, it let them down on the union flag.

    Looks as though the pursuit of the thin aired moral high ground has come at the expense of Alliance’s low hanging fruit.

    When do you put all of that in one of your ‘news letters’, Comrade?

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    DC,
    Comrade says:Shameful personalized comments reveal the true nature of your embittered personality, DC.

    You say: comrade ‘i love martin mcguiness’ stalin, why must you view my comments negatively, that one above was a positive one for once.

    I say: QED

  • DC

    I say: humour.

  • Comrade Stalin

    What is a “unionist area” ?

  • DC

    CS on slugger from what i have read always seems to big up Martin McGuinness, so i am wagering he would in all probability be very content as viewing the Alliance Party as nothing more than a delivery mechanism for the advancement of Sinn Fein’s anti-British strategy.

    Therefore, those that come out against ‘advancement’ whether on the flag or slating politicians who can be viewed as doing such a thing as that will automatically face Comrade’s ire, Comrade lecturing from the perceived morally and intellectually superior vantage point of Alliance party politics – who you see aren’t supposed to be like that, they are clean, others dirty.

    He is usually pretty quickly backed up by nationalists on here who come out in support if they believe his green-tinged line of argument converges with their nationalist outlook on certain things.

    Nationalist commenter: hey Alliance, thanks for helping to remove the flag almost all of the way out and down.
    Alliance commenter:Well thanks…I think…
    Nationalist commenter:Don’t worry if any one on here slags you for doing this, we got your back.

    What is a “unionist area” ?

    Jeez, if the Alliance vote grows any more, i’ll be asking you that!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Are you drunk again ?

  • FDM

    “babyface finlayson

    “That is a shame. I can’t say I blame them after what happened the last time,but it does rather give the morons who disrupted the first match the outcome they want.
    Is the boycott because of what happened the last time, or because of the small allotment of tickets?”

    It is a shame and not what the Reds wanted. Crusaders should not be punished because of a tiny minority of DC types who couldn’t give a monkeys if Belfast burned as long as the last thing on fire was a piece of cloth on top of city hall.

    I ultimately put this down to the DUP. Nelson McCausland, Nigel Dodds and that pip-squeak Spence have been whipping-up the residents [there was a targetted leaflet campaign a few months back at a Crues game] in the area to try and prevent the Reds fans getting to the ground under their own steam. They have been campaigning for restrictions to be placed on numbers, routes and even the modes of transport that the Reds fans will be ALLOWED to use to get to Seaview.

    The Reds fans will accept no such conditions. So we are making the point with this game that we will accept no such conditions on our freedom of movement to and from what is a game of football. The police and the nefarious elements I have mentioned would use any acceptance of these restrictions as the premise for continuing/expanding them next season.

    Just remember the Reds did nothing wrong here and it is they who are being penalised. The police should have done their bloody JOB in the first place and cleared those 30 fleg balloons off the road and let the Crues and the Reds watch an entertaining game of football between the best two sides in the league. Additionally the fact this game should have been played before the split in the league, the fixture non-completion might have affected the outcome of the league. Crusaders fans from that area should consider that when putting their ‘x’ in the box for monsieurs Dodds, McCausland and Spence. These three and the fleg rabble have damaged the future stability of the club by robbing them of one of the biggest paydays they can guarantee every year, i.e. the boxing day derby, which is worth in the region of 35,000 to them. Not small beer to an Irish League club.

    The game locally is dying on its ass, and the only politicians I see at work here are the DUP, whipping-up tension where we have had relative stability for decades.

  • Blue Hammer

    FDM

    Firstly – I am in full agreement with you re Reds/Crues.

    What is your view on the restrictions applied to Linfield fans coming to Solitude? Do you think we will ever see Blues fans travelling there in the same way as they do to all other gounds (including DC), or will the current Ballysillan/Bus scenario remain?

    Interested in your view from a Reds background.

  • FDM

    @Blue Hammer

    There shouldn’t be any restrictions on the Blues support coming to Solitude.

    I understand the arrangements at the minute are driven, pardon the pun, by Linfield themselves? Probably with police advice. However I am open to correction. It does seem really over the top to me.

    I think the mandatory busing-in should go.

    I used to live in the area where the all the rest of the other teams support park their cars when they visited Solitude and I can’t remember there being ANY hassle. Additionally the home support sit in their seats for 10 minutes as the visiting fans leave. The Glens, Crues and Ballymena fans are regular visitors to the social club in the stadium before kick-off without again any hassle in my memory.

    I undertand the full allocation for the away stand is offered to every club, including Linfield, coming to Solitude.

    I see not manyLinfield fans took up the offer last weekend though… :)