Why flags should be treated with respect

The Irish News yesterday editorialised on the need for prompt intervention when an area is invaded by outsiders and festooned with flags as in the case of one area in South Belfast. Robin Livingston, however argues that there is an underlying problem of too little respect for what a national flag stands for. Although a committed Republican, he cannot stand the sight of the tricolour flying off random parts of Belfast’s urban geography in apparent abandonment and neglect.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Oops, that should have read:

    “That said, the (minority of) unionists who insist that they’re NOT Irish in any shape or form ARE misguided fools.”

  • slug9987

    Billy its for them not for you.

  • Lafcadio

    Billy,

    A pleasure as always… (just to be clear, I mean that, not trying to be clever) Right now I can only answer sporadically because I’ve just started a new job.

    Re flags – I wasn’t trying to brush this aside, I just didn’t see this particular issue as the most interesting in your posts. Just to return however to what I said; you’re entirely correct to say that you didn’t use the term “ridicule” to describe the practice of flying union flags or other “unionist paraphernalia” as you describe them, but I think it’s fair to say it was possible to discern a certain contempt from your posts. If not, explain, and I’ll retract.

    While we’re here though, one distinction to make is that something which undoubtedly sways the balance is the “territorial pissing”, the blanketing of entire areas with loyalist flags; so as it happens, while I would estimate that more “unionist” than “nationalist” flags are flown, many (most?) of these “unionist” (and I use the term advisedly…) flags are in fact not the national flag, rather the banner of the local crowd of gangsters. For example, when I last lived in Belfast, my street in the university area and all of those around were smothered in LVF or UDA (or whatever) flags, even though the entire time I lived there, I didn’t meet a single person C or P who lived there who actually supported the organisation, or approved of the flags – so your hypothetical driver may well have surmised that this area was a loyalist stringhold, when in fact the people there were students who held the flags and the people who hung them in contempt.

    I think that this question of flags and other emblems can be bent to fit all kind of mildly hysterical conclusions; this desire to erect visible assertions of identity does not necessarily mark out that identity as less substantial or illegitimate. For example, in Wales and Scotland one sees the Welsh and Scottish flags heavily in evidence, with nary a union flag to be seen; when I lived in Paris, if you ever saw a group of youths of N African extraction you can be sure there were several wearing Algerian / Morroccan / Marseilles footy shirts.

    As for “Ulster is so obviously not in Britain” – I’m with you there; but Northern Ireland IS so obviously in Britain, if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my passport (my British one that is, not my Irish one). And I fear that you are the one ascribing arguments to me that I have not made when you ask me how I “…persuade [myself]…that Ulster is not IRISH…” – Ulster is very much Irish, and I am a proud Ulsterman and Irishman. Further, enough of the “rest of the world” in fact HAS bought the “Ulster is British” argument (although I would prefer “NI is British”) that it actually is, in reality, British.

    So to conclude – I think this is an unsubstantial exchange about an unsubstantial issue; that both communities in NI would cling to totems to differentiate one from the other (be they flags, bands, popular mythology about oppression and martyrdom etc etc) is so predictable and obvious as to be hardly worth pointing out.

    You challenge me to produce something you said to back up what I said about “British identity [being] some kind of aberration” – I am reluctant to get involved in some kind of mutual tit-for-tat line by line literal deconstruction of your posts, because I don’t think that this will be conducive to a mutually satisfying debate; but because this dovetails with your next paragraph, where among other things, you accuse me of confusing two fundamental statements, let me quote the following, in its entirety, from your earlier post: “I suggested that it is because the north of Ireland’s “Britishness”, to which unionists are committed, is essentially a transient detail, whereas its “Irelandness” is permanent”.”

    Like I say, I’m not interested in a pedantic slog, and I’m not going to labour the point, but please give me some credit…

    As for my four green fields “rant” – respectfully I don’t think it can be fairly described as such; and to be clear, I was not implying that you had (ever, to my knowledge) ever literally used the phrase. My aim was to invite a debate on the irrelevancy of appeals to sentiment versus appeals to calculated self-interest in any debate on Ireland’s constitutional status, as well as remarking along the way upon the evident fallacy of assuming that geographical unity should somehow filter through to political unity in Ireland, if nowhere else. I’m disappointed that you won’t respond, because I imagine if anyone on Slugger can postulate a potent and positive argument in favour, you would be up there.

  • uptheshankill

    Martin,

    Good post and thanks for the info.

  • Blackadder

    Billy,

    “dare I say, the huge disparity between anti-Catholic hatred and anti-Protestant hatred in the north.”

    ….and you base this on??? The speeches of Mary McAleese?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Lafcadio
    A pleasure indeed. Thanks again for the detailed response and good luck with the new job. I’ll try not to detain you too long.

    “but I think it’s fair to say it was possible to discern a certain contempt from your posts. If not, explain, and I’ll retract.”

    Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works. You accuse me of “contempt” for unionists. I utterly reject the allegation, and would argue that my many posts on the subject of unionism – though often critical – suggest my deep interest in unionism and, indeed, my emotional attachment to unionist people. Now it’s up to you to either stand up your allegation of “contempt” or to retract. What one infers is not always what is actually implied. (I’m not literally asking for a retraction, I’m happier just to move on.)
    I have no argument with your discussion of loyalist flags but I think you are avoiding the issue which I have attempted to raise here. You suggest that a majority of publicly-displayed pro-union paraphernalia is of the illegal, loyalist variety. I would disagree and suggest that only a small minority of pro-union displays are in fact illegal. Perhaps your point holds true in areas like the ghetto (Sandy Row?) you described, maybe even in Belfast as a whole, but across the whole north I’d suggest the vast majority are union flags, Ulster flags, saltires, loyal order paraphernalia and other legal banners. Forget the lamppost brigade for a moment – most flags flown here are flown by the wee Orangeman in Omagh or the wee Blackman in Belleek or the wee UDR man in Rathfriland and people like that. Good, decent, law-abiding, hard-working people who put their relationship with their Catholic neighbours (if they have any) in jeopardy for the summer months by festooning the house in colours, or maybe even just flying a single Jack outside the front door. Ask them why they do it and they’ll tell you it’s tradition. Culture. Their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers did before them. THOSE instances of flag-flying are, to my mind, far more interesting than the territorial pissings of paramilitaries. What do these practices suggest about those who participate in them? What are we to make of the fact that these practices are sufficiently widespread as to constitute an actual flag-flying “culture”? What are we to make of the fact that there simply is no comparable phenomenon across the sectarian divide?
    With respect, I think you want to avoid these questions. I don’t blame you: if I was a unionist I wouldn’t want to think too much about them either. In fact, I’d feel more comfortable distracting myself with flags and banners and flute bands and uniforms and so on. Which is exactly my point. Sorry if you think this is a “mildly hysterical conclusion” but there you have it.
    You said: “As for “Ulster is so obviously not in Britain” – I’m with you there; but Northern Ireland IS so obviously in Britain, if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my passport (my British one that is, not my Irish one).”
    Sorry to be a pedant, but NI is in the UK of GB and NI. Read your passport more carefully. Yes, it declares that you are British, but it also refers, in the name of the state, to the distinction between “Great Britain” on the one hand and “Northern Ireland” on the other. As I said, NI is NOT in Britain and it never can be. It is “British” in terms of the state that has sovereignty here, that’s not in dispute. My point is that this “Britishness” – if that is to be defined only as political sovereignty – is a transient detail. However Ulster’s Irelandness is eternal and unchangeable – and runs far deeper than mere political sovereignty.
    “I think this is an unsubstantial exchange about an unsubstantial issue; that both communities in NI would cling to totems to differentiate one from the other (be they flags, bands, popular mythology about oppression and martyrdom etc etc) is so predictable and obvious as to be hardly worth pointing out.”
    Ah Lafcadio, your synopsis clearly doesn’t do justice to the substance of this discussion. If it were simply the case that both tribes had their totems, of course that wouldn’t tell us much. But the real meat of this discussion – as you very well know – if the VAST disparity between the significance that each tribe seems to put on its totems. I want to talk about what this might mean. For obvious reasons, it seems you don’t.
    You’re right when you say it’d be a shame to get into a nit-picking tit-for-tat exercise so I’ll simply clarify that when I wrote:
    “I suggested that it is because the north of Ireland’s “Britishness”, to which unionists are committed, is essentially a transient detail, whereas its “Irelandness” is permanent”;
    I was referring to the Union – which ultimately is, as all political dispensations are, a transient detail. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

    “My aim was to invite a debate on the irrelevancy of appeals to sentiment versus appeals to calculated self-interest in any debate on Ireland’s constitutional status, as well as remarking along the way upon the evident fallacy of assuming that geographical unity should somehow filter through to political unity in Ireland, if nowhere else.”
    I would completely agree with your ideas about appealing to self-interest rather than simple emotion. (Though of course, emotion will always be a powerful force in public opinion.) It doesn’t matter whether you or I think Ireland’s geographical unity should be translated into political unity – what’s interesting is that, arguably, so many unionists seem to think just that. What other explanation can there be for bizarre discourses on how Ulster constitutes a pre-ordained separate nation or that Ulster Protestants aren’t Irish at all? If they were secure in their identity there would be no need for such strange departures from reality.
    I think that, like the flying of flags, Ulster’s Protestants are a deeply insecure people, and the causes of that insecurity are primarily the inherent contradictions in pursuing the perpetuity of partition. I think unionism in this day and age is poison for Ulster’s Protestants, and deep down they know it. All the flags in the world can’t obscure that fact.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Blackadder

    Och I don’t know, experience.

    Now, I don’t want to get into a tit for tat exercise, but look at, say:

    Harryville. Can you think of a reverse equivalent?

    Holy Cross. Can you think of a reverse equivalent?

    The mass protests at “Vatican Square” on Sandy Row after a couple of southerners moved in. Can you think of a reverse equivalent?

    Carnmoney cemetery. Can you think of a reverse equivalent?

    The Orange Order. Can you think of a reverse equivalent?

    Sinn Fein might be every bit as bigoted as the DUP but at least they feel the need to lie about it and blether on about understanding and addressing unionist concerns. The DUP are naked bigots. (Not just Sammy Wilson either.)

  • slug9987

    Cheap.

  • Blackadder

    Billy,

    so we are all as bigoted as each other, except that Catholics do it behind closed doors but Protestants are all up front about it?

    Interesting.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Blackadder and Slug

    Sorry lads, I’m not trying to be offensive here, but whether I am or not is irrelevant. Either I have a point or I don’t. Neither of you has tackled me on the issue.

    “so we are all as bigoted as each other, except that Catholics do it behind closed doors but Protestants are all up front about it?”

    The point I made was vis a vis Sinn Fein and the DUP. I’m arguing that anti-Protestant hatred and anti-Catholic hatred are twin scourges, but not identical twins. The former is Danny DeVito, the latter is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    I made the comparison between the DUP and SF because they are the largest parties within the differing sectarian blocs. One could equally have compared the UUP with the SDLP. The point is that though both nationalist parties undoubtedly are host to an unknown number of anti-Protestant bigots, both party leaderships seem fairly certain there aren’t any votes for them in naked bigotry. Their bigotry is kept under wraps as far as is possible. On the contrary, the unionist parties are locked in a perpetual race to the bottom of the sectarian cesspool. Why? Because the leaders of political unionis believe that’s what Protestants want.

    Now, I would add a very large and crucial caveat to this observation – that unionist leaders are largely wrong. The fact is that large and increasing numbers of Protestants aren’t voting at all these days – am I right in saying two Protestants in five didn’t vote at the last election? Why aren’t they? Most people would agree it’s because they are sick to the stomach of sectarian-dominated unionist politics.

    This, I think, dovetails with my argument that whatever about past circumstances, in this day and age unionism is poison to Ulster’s Protestants. It seems that the more self-respecting sections of the traditional “unionist” family – who are the ones staying away from the polls in droves – agree with me.

    THESE people, the legendary garden centre Prods, are de facto ex-unionists. They are not bigots. They have turned away from unionism because increasingly, it’s hard to be a unionist and NOT have to ally yourself with some bigot or other.

    Seriously: look at those examples I have listed. Carnmoney. Holy Cross. Drumcree. Harryville. The list goes on. According to the sectarian logic of zero sum NI politics, the five-eighths Protestant from North Down or Fermanagh or Ardglass is supposed to defend actions that – he must surely know – are indefensible. What does he do? Like anyone with any wit would, he goes and plays golf instead. He puts in a new trellis in the garden. He books two weeks in Cyprus. He’s about as likely to vote SF as for any of those headcases. (And there’s zero chance of him voting for SF.)

  • slug

    Turnout has been falling across the board.

  • slug

    “He’s about as likely to vote SF as for any of those headcases. (And there’s zero chance of him voting for SF.)”

    You said it baby 🙂

    That brand of politics is what nationalists vote for 🙂

  • slug

    “According to the sectarian logic of zero sum NI politics, the five-eighths Protestant from North Down or Fermanagh or Ardglass is supposed to defend actions that – he must surely know – are indefensible.”

    Says who?

  • curious

    Bored,
    firstly your continous insults of me fly in the face of the sites rules and surely have you close to a red card – admin?

    secondly the fact you have abandoned your arguement to insult me means ill claim a morale victory. 🙂

    thirdly im a politics graduate of QUB.

    Good day – and again no surrender 🙂

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Slug

    If you want to have a discussion about this, I’d be delighted, but I’m going to need a bit more from you. You can’t leave me to do all the legwork. Show me a bit of intellectual honesty and maybe we could take this discussion forward. Putting up one-line speed bumps is, frankly, boring.

  • slug

    Billy – your post is pretty boring to me so I won’t get back to you on it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Slug

    Didn’t think so.

  • slug

    “thirdly im a politics graduate of QUB.”

    How unfortunate.

  • slug

    Nationalist votes – down.

  • Bored

    Curious – petulantly scrambling around whimpering for ‘mummy’ (Mick) to come and rescue you from your own racist incoherent tripe is no basis upon which to claim a moral victory. Trumpeting the fact that you possess a degree from Ireland’s worst ‘university’ is frankly hilarious. You are a wonderful advertisement for Queen’s. It never ceases to amaze me when during the course of my work I come across a variety of punters all of whom claim to be Queen’s graduates. These characters look, sound, smell and act like utter bog trash/rubbish-burning, flag-waving untermenschen. Any fleeting visit to the ‘Holy Lands’ merely confirms the position – Queen’s is a glorified polytechnic attended in the main by GAA-shirt-wearing bog trotters called ‘Feargal’ who go home to ‘mammy’ on Friday mornings and routinely struggle to identify the capital of France. Again, as a ‘top-up’ to your glorious ‘education’ there are (as I’ve pointed out earlier) a variety of adult education classes available in the greater Belfast area. I really think that you should plump for some form of ’emergency crash course in written English’ as a starting point.

    P.S. My earlier offer still stands – You. A ‘bonefire’. Flags. ‘The Pope’s a Darkie’. Trust me – it’ll be glorious….

  • Blackadder

    “The point I made was vis a vis Sinn Fein and the DUP. I’m arguing that anti-Protestant hatred and anti-Catholic hatred are twin scourges, but not identical twins. The former is Danny DeVito, the latter is Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

    I understand you were using SF/DUP as an analogy for the situation,but all I am saying is that it is wrong to say there is a big difference between anti Catholic and anti Protestant hatred in NI, with the latter heavily outweighing the former.

    While there have been a few high profile examples on the anti Catholic side, I do not believe that it means there is wide disparity, merely it is occasionally displayed in a crude and repulsive manner.

  • slug

    “I felt incredibly sorry for my unionist brothers and sisters in Ireland. Nationalists don’t need flags”

    Um, isn’t that a bit, well er. Oh, never mind.

    ” utterly reject the allegation, and would argue that my many posts on the subject of unionism – though often critical – suggest my deep interest in unionism and, indeed, my emotional attachment to unionist people.”

    Same goes.

    Think.

  • Blackadder

    “I understand you were using SF/DUP as an analogy for the situation,but all I am saying is that it is wrong to say there is a big difference between anti Catholic and anti Protestant hatred in NI, with the latter heavily outweighing the former.”

    Whoops, the end is meant to read ‘with the former heavily outweighing the latter’.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Blackadder

    “I understand you were using SF/DUP as an analogy for the situation, but all I am saying is that it is wrong to say there is a big difference between anti Catholic and anti Protestant hatred in NI, with the latter heavily outweighing the former. While there have been a few high profile examples on the anti Catholic side, I do not believe that it means there is wide disparity, merely it is occasionally displayed in a crude and repulsive manner.”

    Thanks for the response. I understand that you believe I am “wrong to say there is a big difference between anti Catholic and anti Protestant hatred in NI” but that doesn’t amount to a rebuttal. I understand that you “do not believe that it means there is wide disparity” but again, this is a denial rather than a rebuttal.

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond, and I doubly appreciate that you have responded to such a sensitive issue in such a measured way.

    But I DO believe that anti-Catholic hatred is much more prevalent among unionists than anti-Protestant hatred is among nationalists. I have given a few examples of stomach-churning incidents for which, thank God, there is no equivalent across the way. I would argue that there is nothing inherent about this, and certainly there is nothing in the reformed faith that would bring this about – on the contrary.

    The reason for this great disparity, I believe, lies in our politics. Unionism fundamentally assumes that division is an inherently good thing, while nationalism wants to end a division. It’s not hard to understand how one would be more likely to bring out the worst in people.

    Furthermore, unionism’s galvanising force is fear of what might happen to them in the event of Irish unity. Just watch the rival unionist parties at any election as they try to outdo each other with nightmare scenarios. Historically this has always been the case. Nationalism on the other hand is galvanised by a utopian dream, not a dystopian nightmare. Again, it’s not hard to see how one would bring out a person’s ugly side more than the other.

    Unionism in the post-partition era has put an intolerable burden on the conscience of individual Ulster Protestants. Union between the islands might have been one thing but a British enclave on a partitioned island has made a colonial garrison of Ulster’s Protestants. It’s easy to understand how this situation has bred paranoia. How did they feel about Mexicans inside the Alamo?

    How many Ulster Protestants honestly believe that a united Ireland would mean serfdom or slavery or death? How many hundreds of thousands of otherwise reasonable and rational people believe this dystopian fantasy? Again, it’s not hard to understand how a people are so wracked with irrational terror would be likely to descend into bigotry – and that that bigotry would be generally acceptable. There are plenty of nationalist bigots but – a crucial difference – bigotry is not considered respectable among nationalist. It’s understandable though: when nationalists look to the future they do so with hope. Nationalists hope for unity, peace, equality, justice. Unionists are condemned to dread these things.

    So it’s possible to see how that community would organise itself with structures like the Orange Order, in which decent and good people swear an ugly oath to an organisation that has an international profile akin to that of the KKK. There is even a malign logic to dregs of that community killing Catholics for being Catholic, attacking massgoers or people praying at the graveside of their loved ones, or throwing blast bombs and bags of urine at five-year-old schoolgirls.

    So as I have said: it is unionism that drives Ulster’s Protestants to far greater extremes of bigotry. It is unionism that has brought a proud people to such degradation. Before partition Ulster’s Protestants were known as the engineers of the world. Now they’re known for Drumcree and Holy Cross. As I said: in this day and age unionism is poison to Ulster’s Protrestants.

    Slug.

    Okay, I’m a patronising bastard. But have you anything to say on the issue, other than observations on my character?

    I’ll show you more respect than you have shown me and answer your point.

    Yes, nationalists votes were down on the last election but the overall pro-union vote has shown an incremental decline over a period of decades. Unionist voter decline has been a generational trend in areas like North Down, suburban areas of East Belfast, Lagan Valley and Strangford and other great chunks of the unionist vote across the north – a decline that has been arrested only once in the last few decades (ie the GFA referendum). It’s fair to talk about ex-unionist abstention a major phenomenon in its own right.

    The statistics clearly demonstrate that there can be no question of a similar phenomenon within nationalism. The fact that the nationalist vote was down at the last election, or even the last couple of elections does not mean we’re comparing like with like. It’s probably fair to say that the nationalist vote has plateaued. If it has dropped, it has dropped from what may be its high water mark. Percentage-wise, nationalist turnout is still substantially higher than across the divide.

    (Interestingly, your mendacious reference to falling nationalist turnout is an example of the same reasoning that was identified at the beginning of this thread. Say you have ten tricolours in West Belfast and a million Union Jacks in Lisburn. Unionists would say that both are examples of sectarian flag-flying, so West Belfast is as bad as Lisburn. Similarly you argue that if both nationalist and unionist turnout was down at the last election, then both sides are in the same position. As though no other factors come into play. Such as the volume of flags? Or long-term voting trends? THIS is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty.)

  • slug

    I thought that unionst turnout was always low.

  • slug

    Partly it could just be from the tradition of inbuilt majorities. Dunno.

  • Blackadder

    Billy,

    I tend to say ‘I Believe’ because in most cases it is hard to quantify and technically prove an argument in a lot of cases.

    I appreciate that you have provided lots of theories as to back up your argument and they make good reading, however I still don’t think they amount to any more than that and as such it is wrong to make grand, sweeping statements about the nature of 2 large communities.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    Billy no harm but I got half way down your post and had to stop, you clearly have no understanding of Unionist thought – (in fact your attitude suggests you would deem such a term an oxymoron).

    “Unionism fundamentally assumes that division is an inherently good thing”

    I disagree. In fact it was unionism which sought to prevent the division of the United Kingdom.

    “while nationalism wants to end a division”
    On the contrary, one could easily argue that nationalism (generic nationalism, not specifically Irish nationalism) is, by it’s very nature, divisive.

    “Nationalists hope for unity, peace, equality, justice. Unionists are condemned to dread these things.”
    Again, I’d hope for all these things to – I just don’t believe it will happen any time soon (particularly unity – by which I mean the people of Northern Ireland, rather than a united island).

    I accept that the international profile of unionism and unionists leaves a lot to be desired in the modern day, but I think the reasons for such are not covered by your post.

  • David

    I find flags intimidating and insulting. I don’t think that a percentage of blame corresponds to the number of flags that either side have is a correct presumption to make. A flag well placed for affect is more of a negative statement than twenty in an estate. And if the flags become frayed, good. Americans have flags everywhere but they are very tribal. I don’t think that Tribalism is a great idea, if it were we would just let Rangers and Celtic have a play off to decided the political representatives.

    Surely Northern Ireland, whether it remains part of the UK or becomes a part of Ireland, needs some marketing to give it an identity other than violence, bigotry, tax evasion and brain drain migration. Could a united flag for Ulster not be agreed or would the debate over the colours, its boundaries and the designers/ consultants prove to be too much?

  • David

    I find flags intimidating and insulting. I don’t think that a percentage of blame corresponds to the number of flags that either side have is a correct presumption to make. A flag well placed for affect is more of a negative statement than twenty in an estate. And if the flags become frayed, good. Americans have flags everywhere but they are very tribal. I don’t think that Tribalism is a great idea, if it were we would just let Rangers and Celtic have a play off to decided the political representatives.

    Surely Northern Ireland, whether it remains part of the UK or becomes a part of Ireland, needs some marketing to give it an identity other than violence, bigotry, tax evasion and brain drain migration. Could a united flag for Ulster not be agreed or would the debate over the colours, its boundaries and the designers/ consultants prove to be too much?

  • David

    I find flags intimidating and insulting. I don’t think that a percentage of blame corresponds to the number of flags that either side have is a correct presumption to make. A flag well placed for affect is more of a negative statement than twenty in an estate. And if the flags become frayed, good. Americans have flags everywhere but they are very tribal. I don’t think that Tribalism is a great idea, if it were we would just let Rangers and Celtic have a play off to decided the political representatives.

    Surely Northern Ireland, whether it remains part of the UK or becomes a part of Ireland, needs some marketing to give it an identity other than violence, bigotry, tax evasion and brain drain migration. Could a united flag for Ulster not be agreed or would the debate over the colours, its boundaries and the designers/ consultants prove to be too much?

  • slug

    “Nationalists hope for unity, peace, equality, justice. Unionists are condemned to dread these things.”

    LOL – didn’t spot that one! Serously this is way off base.

  • Lafcadio

    Billy, sorry for long delay, on my (by now) weekly swing through slugger..

    First things first, and I thought I mentioned before – I am not a unionist! Just because I don’t buy into some of the received wisdom of Irish nationalism doesn’t mean I’m a unionist…

    Second, when i last lived in Belfast I was a student and lived in a good flat in a pleasant street off the Lisburn Road, so not a “ghetto” by any stretch of the imagination. The flags I mention were presumably hung by hoods who lived in adjacent loyalist areas, but that’s not necessarily the impression that a casual observer may have had. And, living in London, I can’t go around the streets for even a rough idea, but I stand by what I said about the majority of flags being gang-related rather than union flags – can anyone offer anything more scientific?

    Third, re passports, Britishness etc, NI is in the UK as you say; however (as I’m sure you well know..) in the absence of a readily derivable adjective, “British” and “Britain” are the widely accepted proxies for the UK in journalism, politics and business. It’s not very neat and tidy, but then life isn’t very neat and tidy! (For similar phenomenon, see “America” and “USA”…)

    Fourth – “Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works”, yoiks are we in a court of law, and I didn’t realise it?? I accused you of a certain contempt for unionists on the grounds that, among other things, you described Britishness as a “transient detail”, talked of feeling sorry for your “unionist brothers” (for not getting nationalism..), and saying that flags are “all they have”. Now, perhaps this was unintentional, but, knowing some thoughtful unionists as I do, there is no way of reading this without interpreting it as patronising and contemptuous.

    Anyhow, as “transient details” go, the UK would appear to have surprising longevity, and talk it down though one might, neither of us will see it go in our lifetime..

    Admittedly you have retracted what you said about British identity in NI, which makes your argument more polite, but less coherent. You say that unionists’ British identity is “real, valid, valuable and non-negotiable” while at the same time saying that apart from flags, there’s not a lot to it – now, if you truly believe it’s real and valuable, then the unavoidable follow-on is that political union with other British people is logical and desirable; but if you think it’s all smoke and mirrors, then unionists are “wrong” about their national identity?

    So what’s it to be, is a British identity real and valuable, or self-denial and bluster?

    “…is the VAST disparity between the significance that each tribe seems to put on its totems. I want to talk about what this might mean. For obvious reasons, it seems you don’t” – well as I’ve said, I’m not a unionist, so am perfectly happy to discuss the defensive mindset that leads some of them to wrap themselves up in a flag; but I’ve already said this.. It’s just a no-brainer – I work for one of the five biggest banks in Europe, and its noticeable that our execs mention how big we are quite a lot, even in internal communications; but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that at HSBC (far and away Europe’s biggest), being big is taken as read, and commented upon relatively little. However, this is not to say that we are a small bank – we aren’t, we are demonstrably big – we are just more inclined to point it out than a bank whose size speaks for itself..

    To move onto “Irelandness” again – it is not permanent, not by any stretch of the imagination; depending on how far you want to go back, not even the island has been there for ever. And I notice a reluctance to engage with the question of why Ireland should necessarily be governed as a single state? I would find it unsatisfactory to hear an “Ulster nationalist” say that Ulster is inherently a stand-alone, pre-ordained nation; and likewise, I don’t buy the same about Ireland, because in both cases, they are so palpably not.

    Island unity is one of several potential political settlements in Ireland, and one I’m not opposed to in principle; but if it’s ever going to happen, any argument for it will have to stand up, and do better than “ah go on, sure we’re an island..”

  • Lafcadio

    Billy, sorry for long delay, on my (by now) weekly swing through slugger..

    First things first, and I thought I mentioned before – I am not a unionist! Just because I don’t buy into some of the received wisdom of Irish nationalism doesn’t mean I’m a unionist…

    Second, when i last lived in Belfast I was a student and lived in a good flat in a pleasant street off the Lisburn Road, so not a “ghetto” by any stretch of the imagination. The flags I mention were presumably hung by hoods who lived in adjacent loyalist areas, but that’s not necessarily the impression that a casual observer may have had. And, living in London, I can’t go around the streets for even a rough idea, but I stand by what I said about the majority of flags being gang-related rather than union flags – can anyone offer anything more scientific?

    Third, re passports, Britishness etc, NI is in the UK as you say; however (as I’m sure you well know..) in the absence of a readily derivable adjective, “British” and “Britain” are the widely accepted proxies for the UK in journalism, politics and business. It’s not very neat and tidy, but then life isn’t very neat and tidy! (For similar phenomenon, see “America” and “USA”)

    Fourth – “Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works”, yoiks are we in a court of law, and I didn’t realise it?? I accused you of a certain contempt for unionists on the grounds that, among other things, you described Britishness as a “transient detail”, talked of feeling sorry for your “unionist brothers” (for not getting nationalism..), and saying that flags are “all they have”. Now, perhaps this was unintentional, but, knowing some thoughtful unionists as I do, there is no way of reading this without interpreting it as patronising and contemptuous.

    Anyhow, as “transient details” go, the UK would appear to have surprising longevity, and talk it down though one might, neither of us will see it go in our lifetime..

    Admittedly you have retracted what you said about British identity in NI, which makes your argument more polite, but less coherent. You say that unionists’ British identity is “real, valid, valuable and non-negotiable” while at the same time saying that apart from flags, there’s not a lot to it – now, if you truly believe it’s real and valuable, then the unavoidable follow-on is that political union with other British people is logical and desirable; but if you think it’s all smoke and mirrors, then unionists are “wrong” about their national identity?
    So what’s it to be, is a British identity real and valuable, or self-denial and bluster?

    “…is the VAST disparity between the significance that each tribe seems to put on its totems. I want to talk about what this might mean. For obvious reasons, it seems you don’t” – well as I’ve said, I’m not a unionist, so am perfectly happy to discuss the defensive mindset that leads some of them to wrap themselves up in a flag; but I’ve already said this.. It’s just a no-brainer – I work for one of the five biggest banks in Europe, and its noticeable that our execs mention how big we are quite a lot, even in internal communications; but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that at HSBC (far and away Europe’s biggest), being big is taken as read, and commented upon relatively little. However, this is not to say that we are a small bank – we aren’t, we are demonstrably big – we are just more inclined to point it out than a bank whose size speaks for itself..

    To move onto “Irelandness” again – it is not permanent, not by any stretch of the imagination; depending on how far you want to go back, not even the island has been there for ever. And I notice a reluctance to engage with the question of why Ireland should necessarily be governed as a single state? I would find it unsatisfactory to hear an “Ulster nationalist” say that Ulster is inherently a stand-alone, pre-ordained nation; and likewise, I don’t buy the same about Ireland, because in both cases, they are so palpably not.

    Island unity is one of several potential political settlements in Ireland, and one I’m not opposed to in principle; but if it’s ever going to happen, any argument for it will have to stand up, and do better than “ah go on, sure we’re an island..”

  • Lafcadio

    Billy, sorry for long delay, on my (by now) weekly swing through slugger..

    First things first, and I thought I mentioned before – I am not a unionist! Just because I don’t buy into some of the received wisdom of Irish nationalism doesn’t mean I’m a unionist…

    Second, when i last lived in Belfast I was a student and lived in a good flat in a pleasant street off the Lisburn Road, so not a “ghetto” by any stretch of the imagination. The flags I mention were presumably hung by hoods who lived in adjacent loyalist areas, but that’s not necessarily the impression that a casual observer may have had. And, living in London, I can’t go around the streets for even a rough idea, but I stand by what I said about the majority of flags being gang-related rather than union flags – can anyone offer anything more scientific?

    Third, re passports, Britishness etc, NI is in the UK as you say; however (as I’m sure you well know..) in the absence of a readily derivable adjective, “British” and “Britain” are the widely accepted proxies for the UK in journalism, politics and business. It’s not very neat and tidy, but then life isn’t very neat and tidy! (For similar phenomenon, see “America” and “USA”)

    Fourth – “Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works”, yoiks are we in a court of law, and I didn’t realise it?? I accused you of a certain contempt for unionists on the grounds that, among other things, you described Britishness as a “transient detail”, talked of feeling sorry for your “unionist brothers” (for not getting nationalism..), and saying that flags are “all they have”. Now, perhaps this was unintentional, but, knowing some thoughtful unionists as I do, there is no way of reading this without interpreting it as patronising and contemptuous.

    Anyhow, as “transient details” go, the UK would appear to have surprising longevity, and talk it down though one might, neither of us will see it go in our lifetime..

    Admittedly you have retracted what you said about British identity in NI, which makes your argument more polite, but less coherent. You say that unionists’ British identity is “real, valid, valuable and non-negotiable” while at the same time saying that apart from flags, there’s not a lot to it – now, if you truly believe it’s real and valuable, then the unavoidable follow-on is that political union with other British people is logical and desirable; but if you think it’s all smoke and mirrors, then unionists are “wrong” about their national identity?
    So what’s it to be, is a British identity real and valuable, or self-denial and bluster?

    “…is the VAST disparity between the significance that each tribe seems to put on its totems. I want to talk about what this might mean. For obvious reasons, it seems you don’t” – well as I’ve said, I’m not a unionist, so am perfectly happy to discuss the defensive mindset that leads some of them to wrap themselves up in a flag; but I’ve already said this.. It’s just a no-brainer – I work for one of the five biggest banks in Europe, and its noticeable that our execs mention how big we are quite a lot, even in internal communications; but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that at HSBC (far and away Europe’s biggest), being big is taken as read, and commented upon relatively little. However, this is not to say that we are a small bank – we aren’t, we are demonstrably big – we are just more inclined to point it out than a bank whose size speaks for itself..

    To move onto “Irelandness” again – it is not permanent, not by any stretch of the imagination; depending on how far you want to go back, not even the island has been there for ever. And I notice a reluctance to engage with the question of why Ireland should necessarily be governed as a single state? I would find it unsatisfactory to hear an “Ulster nationalist” say that Ulster is inherently a stand-alone, pre-ordained nation; and likewise, I don’t buy the same about Ireland, because in both cases, they are so palpably not.

    Island unity is one of several potential political settlements in Ireland, and one I’m not opposed to in principle; but if it’s ever going to happen, any argument for it will have to stand up, and do better than “ah go on, sure we’re an island..”

  • Lafcadio

    Billy, sorry for long delay, on my (by now) weekly swing through slugger..

    First things first, and I thought I mentioned before – I am not a unionist! Just because I don’t buy into some of the received wisdom of Irish nationalism doesn’t mean I’m a unionist…

    Second, when i last lived in Belfast I was a student and lived in a good flat in a pleasant street off the Lisburn Road, so not a “ghetto” by any stretch of the imagination. The flags I mention were presumably hung by hoods who lived in adjacent loyalist areas, but that’s not necessarily the impression that a casual observer may have had. And, living in London, I can’t go around the streets for even a rough idea, but I stand by what I said about the majority of flags being gang-related rather than union flags – can anyone offer anything more scientific?

    Third, re passports, Britishness etc, NI is in the UK as you say; however (as I’m sure you well know..) in the absence of a readily derivable adjective, “British” and “Britain” are the widely accepted proxies for the UK in journalism, politics and business. It’s not very neat and tidy, but then life isn’t very neat and tidy! (For similar phenomenon, see “America” and “USA”)

    Fourth – “Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works”, yoiks are we in a court of law, and I didn’t realise it?? I accused you of a certain contempt for unionists on the grounds that, among other things, you described Britishness as a “transient detail”, talked of feeling sorry for your “unionist brothers” (for not getting nationalism..), and saying that flags are “all they have”. Now, perhaps this was unintentional, but, knowing some thoughtful unionists as I do, there is no way of reading this without interpreting it as patronising and contemptuous.

    Anyhow, as “transient details” go, the UK would appear to have surprising longevity, and talk it down though one might, neither of us will see it go in our lifetime..

    Admittedly you have retracted what you said about British identity in NI, which makes your argument more polite, but less coherent. You say that unionists’ British identity is “real, valid, valuable and non-negotiable” while at the same time saying that apart from flags, there’s not a lot to it – now, if you truly believe it’s real and valuable, then the unavoidable follow-on is that political union with other British people is logical and desirable; but if you think it’s all smoke and mirrors, then unionists are “wrong” about their national identity?
    So what’s it to be, is a British identity real and valuable, or self-denial and bluster?

    “…is the VAST disparity between the significance that each tribe seems to put on its totems. I want to talk about what this might mean. For obvious reasons, it seems you don’t” – well as I’ve said, I’m not a unionist, so am perfectly happy to discuss the defensive mindset that leads some of them to wrap themselves up in a flag; but I’ve already said this.. It’s just a no-brainer – I work for one of the five biggest banks in Europe, and its noticeable that our execs mention how big we are quite a lot, even in internal communications; but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that at HSBC (far and away Europe’s biggest), being big is taken as read, and commented upon relatively little. However, this is not to say that we are a small bank – we aren’t, we are demonstrably big – we are just more inclined to point it out than a bank whose size speaks for itself..

    To move onto “Irelandness” again – it is not permanent, not by any stretch of the imagination; depending on how far you want to go back, not even the island has been there for ever. And I notice a reluctance to engage with the question of why Ireland should necessarily be governed as a single state? I would find it unsatisfactory to hear an “Ulster nationalist” say that Ulster is inherently a stand-alone, pre-ordained nation; and likewise, I don’t buy the same about Ireland, because in both cases, they are so palpably not.

    Island unity is one of several potential political settlements in Ireland, and one I’m not opposed to in principle; but if it’s ever going to happen, any argument for it will have to stand up, and do better than “ah go on, sure we’re an island..”

  • Lafcadio

    Billy, sorry for long delay, on my (by now) weekly swing through slugger..

    First things first, and I thought I mentioned before – I am not a unionist! Just because I don’t buy into some of the received wisdom of Irish nationalism doesn’t mean I’m a unionist…

    Second, when i last lived in Belfast I was a student and lived in a good flat in a pleasant street off the Lisburn Road, so not a “ghetto” by any stretch of the imagination. The flags I mention were presumably hung by hoods who lived in adjacent loyalist areas, but that’s not necessarily the impression that a casual observer may have had. And, living in London, I can’t go around the streets for even a rough idea, but I stand by what I said about the majority of flags being gang-related rather than union flags – can anyone offer anything more scientific?

    Third, re passports, Britishness etc, NI is in the UK as you say; however (as I’m sure you well know..) in the absence of a readily derivable adjective, “British” and “Britain” are the widely accepted proxies for the UK in journalism, politics and business. It’s not very neat and tidy, but then life isn’t very neat and tidy! (For similar phenomenon, see “America” and “USA”)

    Fourth – “Nope, that’s not the way burden of proof works”, yoiks are we in a court of law, and I didn’t realise it?? I accused you of a certain contempt for unionists on the grounds that, among other things, you described Britishness as a “transient detail”, talked of feeling sorry for your “unionist brothers” (for not getting nationalism..), and saying that flags are “all they have”. Now, perhaps this was unintentional, but, knowing some thoughtful unionists as I do, there is no way of reading this without interpreting it as patronising and contemptuous.

    Anyhow, as “transient details” go, the UK would appear to have surprising longevity, and talk it down though one might, neither of us will see it go in our lifetime..

    Admittedly you have retracted what you said about British identity in NI, which makes your argument more polite, but less coherent. You say that unionists’ British identity is “real, valid, valuable and non-negotiable” while at the same time saying that apart from flags, there’s not a lot to it – now, if you truly believe it’s real and valuable, then the unavoidable follow-on is that political union with other British people is logical and desirable; but if you think it’s all smoke and mirrors, then unionists are “wrong” about their national identity?
    So what’s it to be, is a British identity real and valuable, or self-denial and bluster?

    [Having difficulty posting so here endeth part I..]

  • Lafcadio

    whoops I ar$ed that up pretty royally, apologies – moderator, can you remove all but my first attemot above??

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Beano

    “no harm but I got half way down your post and had to stop, you clearly have no understanding of Unionist thought”

    Oh, I know, I just don’t understand. My girlfriend tells me so all the time. Please, help me to understand. Please, where I have taken the wrong tack, help put me right.

    “(in fact your attitude suggests you would deem such a term an oxymoron).”

    “I disagree. In fact it was unionism which sought to prevent the division of the United Kingdom.”

    Perhaps. But in reality Ireland never accepted its place in the UK in the way Scotland or Wales did. When the time came for the formal divorce between these islands of Ireland and Britain, Ulster’s Protestants had a choice: accept the reality that the old UK was at an end, and make common cause with their fellow Irish; or fight for the division of Ireland and the creation of an Irish enclave within the UK. It’s obvious which was the more divisive route, and we all know what happened. It is my contention that in cultural and psychological terms Ulster’s Protestants are still paying the price for allowing the heart to rule the head back then.

    “On the contrary, one could easily argue that nationalism (generic nationalism, not specifically Irish nationalism) is, by it’s very nature, divisive.”

    Sorry but this is total horse shit. Explain to me how the idea that Irish people ought to be sovereign in Ireland is “by it’s very nature divisive”? Explain to me how the ending of a partition is “by it’s very nature divisive”? (And please, no mendacious smokescreens about fascism built around that most unsatisfactory noun “nationalism”.)

    “Again, I’d hope for all these things to – I just don’t believe it will happen any time soon (particularly unity – by which I mean the people of Northern Ireland, rather than a united island).

    If you don’t believe the status quo can deliver unity, peace, equality and justice, then why do you support it?

    “I accept that the international profile of unionism and unionists leaves a lot to be desired in the modern day, but I think the reasons for such are not covered by your post.”

    Let me guess: the brilliance of republican propaganda, right? (Jesus wept.)