Flag wars over St Patrick’s Day in Downpatrick

UTV are covering the story of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. For the last 25 years the local council have handed out red and white St. Patrick’s cross flags. Sinn Féin councillor Eamonn Mac Con Midhe has announced that he will be carrying a tricolour during the parade. He stated:

“I’ll be there on Thursday with my tricolour marching down the street with the councillors as I said I would be.
“Very little unionist councillors have ever participated in the parade, so why are they telling people to stay away when they never came themselves?”

Local DUP councillor William Walker was part of a protest outside a council sub committee this evening:

“What he has done is driven a wedge between the two communities, tried to divide the two communities,” local DUP man William Walker told UTV.
“Now if people turn up at the parade with the tricolour he’s succeeded at that.”

The council’s SDLP chairman Eamonn O’Neill said it dishonours the flag to use it as a “taunt”.

“I’m very proud of the flag, but it stands for peace between the two traditions on the island,” he told UTV.
“In fact, that’s the honourable nature of the flag and I would never dishonour it by using it as a taunt.”

Sinn Fein MLA Willie Clarke clarified the party’s position saying:

“The display of our national flag on St Patrick’s Day is a legitimate position and something I would robustly defend,” he said.
“As political representatives we have an obligation to represent the views of our constituents. I also recognise the St Patrick’s Day event as an occasion everyone should share and enjoy.
“It is unfortunate that the debate around this issue has been blown out of all proportion and I believe that all of us need to be sensitive to causing offence but also mature enough to debate these issues without inflaming passions.”

Apparently there have been claims that the cross of St. Patrick is a unionist symbol and as such presumably from Sinn Fein’s viewpoint carrying tricolours fits in with their equal or neutral position on flags and emblems. However, it is far from universally accepted that the cross of St. Patrick is a “unionist” symbol. Maybe to ensure true equality Sinn Fein should encourage the carrying of a flag composed of the cross of St. Patrick along with a St. Andrew’s and a St. George’s cross – pretty definitely a unionist symbol. Then everyone might be happy and could share in the day? As it is a number of primary schools may decide not to attend the parade.

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