‘Embellishing the Emblem’

 “As the largest party in the executive, the DUP would veto any attempt to remove ‘Her Majesty’ from our prisons’ titles.” Peter Robinson First Minister

“Calm down” and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Deputy First Minister

The common sense approach is often an elusive and sought after trait that the electrate want our ‘Folks on the Hill’ to possess. But, once again when the bread and butter issues such as the rise in fuel cost, food and high unemployment are at the forefront of every other government, we in Northern Ireland still retain the ability to revert back to default. Out of left field, or the centre if you want to be politically correct, comes a resignation and possible collapse over the new Prison Service emblem.

Now, correct me if I am wrong but these words are familiar to the rhetoric of the old guard DUP. It appears once again that the sense of ownership of the public services in Northern Ireland is still a divisive issue across the Unionist divide. The main bone of contention being the removal of HMP and the Crown symbol. The failure however, is not in the ability to see common sense, it is to have the debate about dealing with the past.

This is part of the past and the overall image of the Prison Service for one community in particular, is that one community is the key master and the other, the prisoner. It is this narrative that we must also acknowledge. If the electorate voted for the Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement then surely we cannot go back to tribal politics when the very reforms we voted for, come to fruition.

Now for some common sense. If we look at the re-branding of the PSNI and the emblems included in the badge, what we have is a safe option which has been agreed by all parties already. All communities are represented via the symbols on the badge, not to mention the sun rays in the background to emphasise a new dawn but it appears that this dawn has not yet risen above the red mist of Robinson.

The PSNI badge had to reflect the community it serves and the public service provided by the Prison Service is no different. Justice Minister David Ford is in essence, trying to re-brand a service that quite frankly is out dated. Ford seems to want to have his own say on the issue and perhaps add a personal touch to attribute his name to. 

What is wrong with that? Well, it appears Peter Robinson has decided to ‘pull rank’ on David Ford and remind him of whose boss. ‘Not on my watch,’ he says, as he tries to claw back some of the dissenters from the hardline TUV.

But if the separation of powers is to remain and the Justice Ministry is to be devolved in full, surely Ford should be given the resources he needs in order to do so, with consultation of the executive of course and the two largest parties. So, another consultation fee will no doubt be paid. Again, a money saving tip for the Executive, use the resources we have and stop duplicating costs. 

Allow me to indulge you in a sensible alternative which may also offer even more comfort to all involved. Brand all the branches of the Justice Department with the same emblem template but with different colours to allow for differentiation of course, or to go further, roll out the same template for all oublic services.

Much like that of the Departments in the Executive which use the same emblem but with different colours. Again it creates uniformity, joint ownership and would take the sting out of the argument. It way also allow for those in the Prison Service to feel that they are part of the Public Services Sector and not the bastard child of the justice system as was so often felt. The neglect of the Prison Service has been going on for too long. It is time for change.

And I am afraid that Peter and Martin are going to have to take their seats on their respective podiums and perhaps, for once, debate and oppose an issue. Would make a change to what we are used to. A stagnant legislature which aims to stagnate and infect the processes that it is supposed to uphold and hold to account others around.

Norn Irony blogs at www.nornirony.blogspot.com

  • Drumlins Rock

    The fire service logo is not far off that already, and makes you suspect the PSNI one copied it!
    Have been trying to find the Prison service one, there is a bland blue diamond logo, and a cap badge with crown & ERII on it I think, which does look dated tbh. I think replacing both with with a suitable agreed badge similar to the PSNI one is not a bad idea, but replace the scales with a key.
    The HMP designation should remain so long as it is UK practice, but I’m not sure attaching the monarchs title to such structure really does the Queen much honour!
    Any others need added ? ambulance service? housing executive? environment agency?

  • michael-mcivor

    So nornirony agrees that the brit crown has to go from the prison service logo- the same way that the police got rid of it from there logo-

  • Michael, take a closer look at the badge, I think you will find that the crown is already a part of the PSNI badge. And yes I used the template to create this as it was a much easier and logical approach.

  • michael-mcivor

    You take a closer look- its not the brit crown on the p.s.n.i badge- you want rid of it-so what- we all voted for equality-so the brit crown has to go-

  • The harp is used as a traditional Irish symbol but NOT the Brian Boru harp used as an official emblem in the Republic. The crown is a symbol of royalty but NOT one worn by or representing the British Sovereign. All in all I think a compromise is needed before the DUP and SF use this as a divisive issue to gain more hardline votes, more so the DUP. The powers are devloved to N Ireland and I do not think the Queen would be offended or worried. If we want to attract cross community employment and a representative prison service we need to do this across the board.

  • Im not saying that any symbol has to go, what I am highlighting is the use of this issue and the inability to deal with it. The bottom line is, and I did not want to be drawn into this argument as we could talk all day…The GFA stated dual citizenship for those in N Ireland. That means that the public services must represent both. The closest and agreed version is the PSNI badge.

  • Mike the First

    Interesting post NI, a few challenges for you:

    1 – is there really a need to change the NI Fire & Rescue Service badge?

    2 – “The GFA stated dual citizenship for those in N Ireland” – not quite.

    3 – “If the electorate voted for the Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement then surely we cannot go back to tribal politics when the very reforms we voted for, come to fruition.” – this comes across as an empty and meanlingless platitude. It seems to use the GFA referendum as a stick to beat through any damn thing you like – who exactly voted for a change in the names of prisons, or the emblem of the NIPS, in 1998, for example?

    4 – “Much like that of the Departments in the Executive which use the same emblem but with different colours. Again it creates uniformity, joint ownership and would take the sting out of the argument. It way also allow for those in the Prison Service to feel that they are part of the Public Services Sector and not the bastard child of the justice system as was so often felt. The neglect of the Prison Service has been going on for too long. It is time for change.” I don’t follow your logic here. There’s a good argument to be made for all the departments under the NI Executive to have the same corporate logo template. Are you now suggesting that all NI public bodies should use the same template as each other, and this should be PSNI’s template?

    5. “The GFA stated dual citizenship for those in N Ireland. That means that the public services must represent both.” The first sentence isn’t accurate, and the second sentence doesn’t actually follow from the first. The GFA also stated unequivocally that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK – you think this should be covered up as far as possible?

  • Barry the Blender

    As an Ulster Protestant who likes being Irish just as much as he likes being British, I must say that I’ve always liked the way the PSNI’s badge could encompass a nice Harp, Shamrock and a Crown, with a predominant St Patrick’s Cross at its centre (although there’s considerable debate as to which ‘side’ owns that one).

    But leaving my own personal prejudices and bigotry to one side, I must add that until this ground breaking issue came to the forefront of Northern Irish politics, I didn’t even know that the prison service here had an emblem. I suspect I would have subconsciously suspected that it did, one of Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown knowns perhaps.

    Like Drumlins Rock above I’ve not been successful in finding this cherished piece of unionist identity. A quick google image search brings up the blue and white diamond, but it’s crownless!

    On the subject of the First Minister’s strategy here I have my own musings, but I’m not sure NornIrony wants me to ramble on about those on this thread.

  • • The fire and rescue badge was used purely to illustrate the changes and how it may look if re-branded
    • Both governments must accept the right of Northern Ireland citizens to declare themselves as either British or Irish and that dual citizenship must be provided for those who desire it. (If you wish to debate semantics…)
    • The RUC police force is to be made more cross-community to reflect the makeup of the people of Northern Ireland….what is the difference in making the Prison Service follow the suit? Public bodies must demonstrate cross-community and other equal opportunities. As stated in the GFA/BA
    • The Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement is not a big stick to beat legislation with, from what I remember, the big stick belonged to the Unionist government who controlled the majority of public services at one point in time. The Prison Service is no different. As for 1998, we voted for a shared society which means that all public services that you and I pay for regardless of background, must not be a ‘cold or warm house for anyone about the place’
    • I AM NOT suggesting all public bodies use the same badge template, I am talking about the emergency services. The Prison Service, Fire Service and Police Service that require an emblem.
    • I meant in regards to dual citizenship that it must represent BOTH communities. Again I must perhaps address the clarification of my statements.
    • N Ireland is part of the UK. I acknowledge that, but what I am referring to is the devolved state that is N Ireland. And lets face it we are a glorified council if anything.

  • And Mike, that wasnt a challenge at all. In fact you could use that word to describe you inability to grasp the point that I am making. The bottom line is this, N Ireland should not be about changing ‘our’ prison service for ‘them’. It is not about that with all due respect. It is about creating a shared society where we acknowledge the past. We havent done that so we will keep having these arguments until we take a step back and deal with the past and only then will the awkward silence in the room be filled with compromise and politics that mean something.

  • dwatch

    NI, do you honestly think all prisoners serving time in Northern Ireland prisons will be jumping with joy shouting from the rooftops “we now have a shared society” if prison officers cap badges, uniforms etc are changed?

  • Reader

    NornIrony: The RUC police force is to be made more cross-community to reflect the makeup of the people of Northern Ireland….what is the difference in making the Prison Service follow the suit? Public bodies must demonstrate cross-community and other equal opportunities. As stated in the GFA/BA
    The RUC was specifically mentioned in the GFA. The prison service wasn’t. I agree about equal opportunities, but that has nothing to do with badges.

  • ayeYerMa

    NornIrony, that is a lot of nonsense about dual citizenship. You fail to understand WHY people were offered the option to claim dual citizenship during the GFA. This was precisely because the Republic’s dodgy territorial claim was to be dropped, but done in a way so as not to rock the boat with those who had exploited the loophole pre-GFA. People in NI are born British here whether they like it or not (if not more indisputedly so post-GFA), and symbols should not try to hide reality just because a minority of people are in denial.

    I also have to ask why the all-Ireland St. Patrick’s Cross is so prominent in all these emblems that you’re proposing. It’s almost as if whomever was designing it is also trying to cover up the existence of the Northern Ireland/Ulster identity that ironically does unify people here more than any other.

  • Most Prisoners held in the North’s prisons are from the working-class Nationalist and Republican communities. Whereas, the vast majority of Screws are indeed from the Unionist and Loyalist Community…..

    Starnge BUT true!

  • sonofstrongbow

    The unionist community can’t be blamed for its misfortune at having to share Northern Ireland with a criminally-inclined minority.

    Perhaps if Rathlin was a little bigger we could have our very own Devils’ Island. That would at least put some clear blue water between them and us.

  • dwatch

    “Most Prisoners held in the North’s prisons are from the working-class Nationalist and Republican communities.”

    ArdEoin Republican: Please supply documentation to confirm.

  • People in NI are born British here whether they like it or not (if not more indisputedly so post-GFA), and symbols should not try to hide reality just because a minority of people are in denial.

    I also have to ask why the all-Ireland St. Patrick’s Cross is so prominent in all these emblems that you’re proposing. It’s almost as if whomever was designing it is also trying to cover up the existence of the Northern Ireland/Ulster identity that ironically does unify people here more than any other…..

    Read that back to yourself and take slow deep breaths per line….listen to the ridiculous comments you make
    1. just because a minority of people are in denial….50% or not far off that. Hardly a minority.
    2. Northern Ireland/Ulster identity that ironically does unify people here more than any other…Really? Have you read the responses to the census and previous studies on identity in N Ireland. Clearly not, you make two fatal errors there. You presume that there is a minority and you presume that people identify themselves with ‘Ulster’ when really these two labels are claimed and have the ownership of one community. Its like talking to a brick wall. No evidence and this rhetoric is not original. I just wish the Unionist and Nationalist working class voters would take their lead from within and not from those who seek to use their votes and confidence to further the divide.

  • dwatch, you are quite right. But it is still a Public Service. No one has ownership over it.

  • Hopping The Border

    SoS:

    People in NI are born British here whether they like it or not

    Perhaps you would explain how they are “born british” anymore than they are “born Irish”

    Also whatever about a Northern Ireland identity, what exactly is an Ulster identity?

  • ayeYerMa

    NornIrony, talking yet more pretentious nonsense I see.

    My problem is that I have studied identity surveys all too closely. It is patently obvious that you have not, and should probably go and spend a few hours revising the NILT website before coming back here.

    You pluck this bold “50%” figure out of thin air, foolishly confusing people from a Catholic background as being the same as the vocal but delusionary Irish Republican nutter minority who can never bring themselves let the words “Northern Ireland” slip out of their mouths.

    If you’d study any recent attitude surveys, then you’d find that the Northern Irish / Ulster identity is the fastest growing one, and one which shows our local commonality. Your argument of Ulster vs. Northern Ireland is merely one of semantics and is a point of little substance.

  • ayeYerMa

    Hopping the Border, if you’re born in Northern Ireland, you’re a citizen of the British state from birth. You are not a citizen of the 26 county state unless you pro-actively request to be. Of course identities are not mutually exclusive, but since the topic is concerning bodies of the state, then the legal context is the only appropriate one here. Don’t let our deluded minority get in the way of you acknowledging reality.

    An Ulster identity is a flexible identity referring to the uniqueness of the northern part of this island – it does not have a fixed or fussy definition. It exists – get over it.

  • lamhdearg

    all this countrys civil sevices should have the red hand of ulster (we are all ulster folk) as their symbol.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Hopping The Border

    Perhaps you may find it more productive to pose your questions to the poster who made the points you query?

    Nothing is guaranteed of course as they may choose to withhold troll sustenance.

  • anne warren

    lamh dearg
    I can understand you are fond of the red hand – you use it as your nom de plume. It is undoubtedly a symbol of Ulster,to which you are profoundly connected, and has its roots in a mythological past.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hand_of_Ulster

    Personally speaking I hate it. Every time I saw it, even as a child or a young adult I felt distressed. I was upset when I saw it laid out in the beautiful formal gardens of a stately home (Mount Stewart? can’t remember).
    I did not know the ancient legends attached to it but instinctively I always felt it was a very disturbing sign.

    Thanks to Wikipedia I found out it is a symbol of blood and possibly deception/winning at all costs . I am sure there are more authoritative sources but this was enough for the present argument.

    Ulster gushed blood for over 30 years. A more fitting symbol is needed for a new future – maybe shaking hands, holding hands, hands reaching out to each other – whatever, if people want hands. If not, I am confident some more reconciliatory/suitable icon can be found, if and when needed.

  • lamhdearg

    Anne, this from your link, “The Red Hand can be regarded as one of the very few cross-community symbols used in Northern Ireland.”,

  • anne warren

    Yes, lamh dearg, I did read that and I am sure it is true. I’m not disputing that.

    I just think a red, bloody hand is a horrible symbol for anywhere.

    Surely something better could be found, if needed?

    As I was writing a thought came to mind.
    What about a stylized version of some of the Giant’s Causeway columns? They are surely as old as the red hand, if not older, are unique to Ulster and are accepted by everybody.

  • lamhdearg
  • lamhdearg

    someone needs to teach me how to do links. please dont try as i am as lazy as i am thick.

  • Only one thing – NIFRS falls under DHSSPS (the Public Safety bit), not DOJ – so it’d be Jim Wells in charge of the logo!