Can Peter see the elephant outside City Hall tonight?

In a predictable development tonight, loyalist protests outside Belfast City Hall have descended into violence, with loyalists clashing with PSNI officers and Belfast City Council security staff as car windows were smashed by the marauding protesters, who had earlier failed a basic irony test when they burned an Irish Tricolour whilst protesting about the lack of respect for another National flag.

I had the misfortune of running into the assembling crowd on Royal Avenue whilst returning from an early evening Christmas shopping trip. As I passed the crowd of approximately 250 loyalists marching down Royal Avenue outside of McDonalds, I noticed one 30-something woman, sporting Linfield attire, glaring at me as I passed by. As soon as she past, she turned to her two kids -I’m assuming the two under 10s in her company were her children- and remarked loudly about ‘him’ and his ‘fu$%ing Celtic bag.’ (I’d just purchased a Celtic shirt for Santa to gift my son and the shop assistant had kindly offered to replace the ripped paper Primark bag that had contained the sum total of the shopping outing with a large one from the store- hence the reason I proved to be an easy victim for the foul-mouthed protester.) She then turned her head and shouted ‘fenian’ before scuttling across the top of Castle Street on her merry way to City Hall with the two girls by her side…

That depressing experience apart, there was a real political message to be taken from tonight’s developments for political unionism.

The decision by all shades of political unionism in Belfast to coalesce around the Save the Union Flag campaign in recent weeks is of interest for what it tells us about the limitations of unionism’s vision for the future.

Of course, this is not the first time this year that all strands of Red, White and Blue have pooled resources and sung from one hymn sheet (and that occasion told us perhaps even more on this very subject….)

It’s classic knuckle dragging stuff, befitting the political coterie that brought us the united unionist letter in support of the Famine band and, later in the year, the pan protestant Ulster Covenant celebrations, complete with brazen bandsmen openly lauded as they blasted out sectarian tunes beside a catholic church whilst one of their number urinated on St. Matthew’s Church (which news reports now have under attack again tonight from loyalists returning from City Hall. What depressing symmetry.)

The most telling aspect of the DUP/UUP leaflet which preceded tonight’s violent climax to the campaign is how it sought to position a vision of a shared future as one which reflects the identity of exclusively the unionist tradition in the deeply divided city of Belfast.

This is a theme which I have highlighted in the past to illustrate the fallacy of the argument espoused by others which articulates the view that unionism should not seek a future premised on equality with its nationalist neighbours as the foundation of a stable political future, but rather continue with the delusional assumption that catholics will embrace a future as part of the Union into perpetuity without having their cultural and political identities embedded within such a vision in a manner no unionist politician has yet to consider.

Last week, Peter Robinson used his Party Leader speech at the DUP Conference to boldly declare that a majority of catholics supported the Union, before claiming his party was serious about seeking the electoral support of such a constituency.

It is a claim he has made before and, as on that occasion, has proven rather easy to dismiss.

Last Monday, The Stephen Nolan Show interviewed Jeffrey Donaldson on the very topic of his party’s courting of catholic voters. Like his party leader, Jeffrey clearly believes catholics can- and are- being won over to the Union, though to suggest evidence remains thin on the ground would be the understatement of the year.

But let us examine the evidence before us to assess whether or not Jeffrey is actually serious at all about this initiative.

It was announced two months ago that two DUP MPs, Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley Jnr, have established a company, QUBRIC Ltd, seeking to support peace building in other conflicts across the globe. It is a ‘social company’ in the words of Jeffrey Donaldson.

And this is where it gets interesting.

According to Mr Donaldson, the profits from the business would go to “supporting projects in working-class protestant areas.”

So ingrained is the sectarian mindset within the DUP that the delicious irony of preaching peace and conflict resolution whilst seeking to ensure the benefits are excluded from the ‘other lot’ is completely lost on the DUP’s most senior representatives.

Let’s travel a little further afield, to Coleraine Borough Council, where two DUP councillors recently opposed money for a children’s playground in Kilrea on the grounds that there was an Irish Tricolour flying in the vicinity of the play park. Imagine were that criteria to apply in other areas……

Yet again, Robinson’s words have come back to bite him in the aftermath of a speech which- at least rhetorically- aimed to open new ground for unionism.

As Steve McCroskey (of Airplane fame) might have said: Looks like Peter picked the wrong week to talk up a confident, non-sectarian unionism….

  • iluvni

    I was waiting all day to hear Donnelly’s opinion on racism within GAA.

  • Mick Fealty

    Lets get the simple stuff out of the way first? What’s sectarian about the national flag of the country we all live in?

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru


    Direct your question to the ‘protestors’ recorded on UTV wrapping themselves in the union flag and singing ‘No pope of rome’ at the top of their lungs. They obviously see a link.

  • Mick Fealty

    Erm, what’s wrong with the question again?

  • Submariner

    Other than representing a regime which prohibits Catholics from being head of state i cant think of one. Anyway what about the GAA.

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s talking about the incident in the Kilcoo v Rangers match… A nasty piece of off topic needling…

    Back on topic, it may be those things it’s also the national flag of the country. Removing it hardly brings nationalists any closer to a day of release…

  • DC

    Can Peter see Mr Tayto outside City Hall:

  • Gingray

    Does Chris actually say flying the flag is sectarian in his article, or is it commenting on the irony of unionists talking about being more inclusive on one hand, while doing the opposite in action.

    I agree with you that flying the flag is not sectarian, but many people don’t associate flags in general in this place as anything other than sectarian.

    What’s surely more important is how unionism reacts to a democratic decision that doesn’t go its way – what do you think will happen if nationalism/republicanism gains a majority in belfast?

  • Red Lion

    Well the GAA is off topic, but i thought Joey Cunningham spoke very well (father of Aaron) I remember Joey from his Irish league football days, great player for Portadown who knew how to score a cracker.
    Unfortunately Joey took a lot of racist abuse at several Irish League grounds, but the worst i rememebr was at Solitude where after enduring a scores and scores of bananas thrown onto the pitch by the Cliftonville fans he pinged a stomper of a goal into the net and celebrated his goal like a maniac in front of them, and the Cliftonville fans went absolutely frothing at the mouth beserk. The thing is I was just a kid at the time, and it didnt register with me he was black.
    I hope lots of young people in NI getting used to the Union Flag as the norm, don’t see it in a different or negative light because of the shameful trouble tonight. Unionism never learns, and dispite frustrating glimpses of talk of playing a cleverer pragmatic long term game, still lets Sinn Fein light the torchpaper then stand back and smirk as Unionism jumps in like a fool.

  • Mick Fealty

    I have to go to bed I’m afraid.

    But quickly, FJH, in his own blog notes a parallel with the 1964 taking down of the tricolour on foot of the regressive (not to mention politically idiotic) Flags And Emblems Act, 1954. It was a stupid action, prompted and legitimised by an unremittingly stupid statute.

    The impulse here, IMHO, is just as stupid, and short term.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Any National flag isn’t sectarian in and of itself, though I can see how differing peoples at differing times in history can interpret the appearance of a flag as being either racist or sectarian (usually when associated with a regime culpable for acts of violence.)

    The Union Flag- and Irish Tricolour- have been viewed in such a manner by people of either unionist or nationalist persuasions for many years due to the political situation in this part of Ireland, but getting people past that stance, to a place where mutual respect can be afforded to both traditions, is part of the journey we are on.

    So the question is slightly redundant.

    More important, for those articulating the Robinson line on ‘Catholics for the Union,’ is to put forward a coherent argument explaining how unionism’s inability to cede ground on the issue of flags/ emblems/ power-sharing is consistent with a strategy seriously aimed at broadening the Union’s appeal.

    Perhaps there are those who sincerely believe that the line peddled from DUP HQ- that catholics really want the Union Flag at City Hall- is a vote winner, but there is little by way of credible evidence to back up such an assertion.

    Indeed, it is more credible to assert that the Robinson strategy is a mirror image of the old Nationalist line about simply pointing to the Orange in the Tricolour, reciting the names of the dead martyred protestant republicans and believing that Protestants would once again return to the fold.

    Nationalism- and (the much greater section of) republicanism- has shifted strategic ground on this, crucially acknowledging that any protestant support/ acquiescence in an all-island future arrangement will be preceded by recognition that ‘unionists as unionists’ need to be legitimised within such a framework.

    Alas, unionism appears more comfortable in the denial phase, pining for the unicorns to come galloping into the fold, hoping that the blinkers they’ve ordered for them will help prevent them from seeing the ugly reconstructed face of a unionism which Peter and co seem incapable or -more likely- utter unwilling to extricate themselves from.

  • derrydave

    Are you new to this place or what ? Or just trolling for fun ? It’s patently obvious that the flag in and of itself is not sectarian, however the flaunting of it in the faces of a significant proportion of the population which does not have any allegience to it, as a means of in your face tribal identification and marking, is unhelpful, offensive, and these actions could certainly be described as sectarian in nature.
    Neutral working environment….anyone….. ?
    No matter, it’s done now and will never be reversed – and how many of Belfasts population actually gave a f**k enough to go out in the streets to object ? Despite the campaign and leafletting, only a thousand people ! (probably at least half of whom would have turned up to protest against Catholics actually being allowed to be councillors were such a campaign to be organized !).
    Absolutely nobody is claiming that this move is going to bring about a united Ireland, therefore your statement that it won’t is simply an example of you trying to be a smart-arse – why not just grow up and accept that this is a move in the right direction. The moral majority will get on with their Christmas shopping, whilst silently awknowleding that this is obviously a sensible step.

  • SK

    “still lets Sinn Fein light the torchpaper then stand back and smirk as Unionism jumps in like a fool.”


    I knew it was the nationalists. Even when it was the unionists, I knew it was the nationalists.

    You see the leaflets and the speeches and the general rabble rousing that has typified the unionist approach to discourse over the past several weeks and come to that conclusion, how?

  • Comrade Stalin


    I think that’s a non-argument. The F&A act defined the flying of any “emblem”, anywhere, other than the union jack, to potentially be a breach of the peace. The infamous incident in 1964 involved a flag being displayed on private premises.

    We are talking about issues to do with the status of a shared space and a workplace. I cannot see how these two scenarios can be compared.

    No employer in Northern Ireland of any size can prominently display any kind of tribal regalia otherwise they may be subject to prosecution. This cuts both ways BTW.

  • ayeYerMa

    “Two DUP councillors recently opposed money for a children’s playground in Kilrea on the basis that there was a tricolour flying in the vicinity”. It wouldn’t be like the SDLP and Sinn Fein to try and politicise children’s play areas would it Chris? How did they vote today in Newry?

  • Red Lion

    SK, thats exactly what i mean, all those leaflets and rabble rousing from unionism? Yes, thats unionism jumping in like a fool.

    Ive posted elsewhere about how unionism needs to take a longer term view and plan its actions more coolly, smartly and strategically. Without such ‘smartness’ from unionism, the Shinners were on an absolute winner with this issue – playing to their own gallery with the added bonus of a possible prod riot to further polarise the tribes.

    The shinners know the knee-jerk default position of mainstream unionism, and is happy to push its buttons. It always has.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Yes, thats unionism jumping in like a fool.

    I don’t think it was that foolish when you account for the fact that this is basically a way to hang a tricolour on Naomi Long the next time she stands for election in East Belfast. The DUP were playing a long game.

  • Red Lion

    CS, No, I mean an even longer game of reforming and softening the union to appeal it to a wider and more nuanced base. Not going off on one like the old days of Paisley everytime a Catholic cat got stuck up a Protestant tree.
    The paisley image is the polarised image the shinners want unionism to be tarred with and to which SF and support for a UI benefits. And boy does mainstream unionism oblige.
    Taking back East Belfast from Alliance to DUP hardly strikes a long term blow for the union, when will unionism start to see beyond short termism and think where are we going to be in 20 years and how do we get there, what do we have to do, and more importantly, what do we not have to do.

    And by the way, it is not guarenteed that the polarisation that took place tonight is enough to deliver east belfast back to Robbo, anyway.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Red Lion

    As has so often been the case historically, the problem is not that unionism’s reaction is strategically unwise, but that it is fundamentally wrong and immoral.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    ‘The paisley image is the polarised image the shinners want unionism to be tarred with and to which SF and support for a UI benefits. And boy does mainstream unionism oblige.’

    You’re acknowledging that the Paisley-esque image of unionism that SF refers to is basically accurate.

  • keano10


    You seem a little overly sensitive about the “flag of your country” being taken down? Perhaps you might explain why it needs to fly for 365 days per year when that is not protocol anywhere else? How do you justify that?

    This was a bad night for Unionism. Naked sectarian bigotry on display as tourists fled from the Christmas Market. How do you justify that Mick? Belfast no longer has a Unionist majority just in case it had passed you by…

  • Brian Walker

    The Union Jack has some way to go before it is decontaminated. Many people also have long memories of generations of ruthless Unionist supremacy in the City Hall. That attitude unfortunately survives in councils where unionists refuse power sharing gestures. Perhaps the flag vote was partly a consequence of that ignoble tradition.

    Obviously tonight won’t help but a little perspective would go a long way. In their own interests, it would be desirable if unionists behaved as if the Union Jack is what it is, as Mick points out, the national flag of the UK and not a party flag. The more they scream and shout against a fair vote, the more they reinforce the view that a party symbol is what the flag always was – and always will be.

    What next? Unionists to go into to a Big Sulk and refuse even the designated days? Does it make sense for them to big this up as the end of unionism in Belfast and for nationalists to agree with knobs on? The big risk was taken by Alliance. I hope they are rewarded in time.

    Everybody who is reachable on the issue has a duty not to let mania infect them even in Slugger. It’s easy to see how this could become a wider mini crisis over council power sharing. But unless the parties insist, the ruckus need not the end of civilisation as we know it. Call it some of the inevitable growing pains of a new Northern Ireland.

    Diplomacy might suggest that after a while the winners might increase the number of days designated for named government ( but not council) buildings from – I make it – 17 including the birthday of the Countess of Wessex ( maybe an additional one now for Kate and then there’s the third in line future monarch ). Very few of the actual days are relevant to anybody- the designations were just a formula adopted from English practice to get all the parties out of a jam in 2000 and Peter Mandelson took the heat.

    When everyone has calmed down it would be magnanimous if a motion to add at least one extra day was accepted – for a day everyone could respect such as 1st July, the Somme anniversary. Or devise an end of Troubles commemoration in which the flag would play a modest role. Magnanimity remember does not insist on reciprocal conditions and it would be a good peace process thing to do.

  • Red Lion

    Your first post Billy, virtually all my comments on slugger refer to the troubles period on, the period i was alive in. Post GFA, I am most disappointed with mainstream (note “mainstream”) unionism’s lack of forward planning, of intellectualism, of not accurately reflecting the variety of union people that exist and a lack of a joined up approach to diversify and grow its electorate, and rarely being able to move beyond the need for short term hollow victories at the expense of longer term growth by diversification and liberalisation. I can understand unionism’s shortcomings during the troubles- the short term need to deal with the IRA campaign against them was the priority, and continually burying your dead produces a kneejerk.
    I dont understand the point of your second post.You’re just rehashing my words for i dont know what reason.

  • Morrison

    Does anyone know of another City Hall in the UK that flies the British Flag every day?

  • babyface finlayson

    It’s not the flag itself, fairly obviously, but the motivation behind the action.
    If you take sectarianism as being hatred directed towards another group, it is hard not to suspect that insistence on flying the Union flag, is provocative and done with the full knowledge of how irritating it is to ‘the other side’.
    I think no flag, or possibly the Belfast City flag (the one with the ship on it) is the logical way to go.
    It is simply acknowledging reality.
    Deeply depressing to hear of the violence and attack on St Matthew’s.

  • Newman

    Alliance deserve credit for statesmanship and confronting the reality of the dispute we face on shared space and different identity. The Unionist bloc reveals a depressing inability to think strategically. Like Pavlov’s dogs they can be guaranteed to act on cue. No evidence of broader thinking or paving the way for all these Catholic ‘unionists’. They do not deserve to hold an absolute majority in Belfast and are reaping what they have sowed over decades in power at the Dome of Delight.

  • ayeYerMa

    So Brian Walker, the way to “decontaminate” the national flag is to permanently treat it as “sectarian” and “divisive” and therefore tip-toe areound allowing it to be flown? I think that will have the opposite effect (just as Republicans desire).

    I also see little evidence of a spirit of “power sharing” from Republicans and Alliance now that they have their gerrymandered majority in Belfast.

  • Reader

    Newman: The Unionist bloc reveals a depressing inability to think strategically. Like Pavlov’s dogs they can be guaranteed to act on cue
    However, the fact that the ‘leadership’ was unable to get as many as 1500 protesters to turn up – and low calibre protesters at that – does suggest that the leadership has lost connection with their own voters. If only I could be sure they would learn the lesson!

  • SK


    What are your thoughts on the people who opted to injure 15 people last night because a vote didnt go their way? Out of interest.

  • Sp12

    According to a FF guy in Brussels it was SF doing all the rioting

    I would have thought the flegs being waved would have gave it away, that’s the kind of analytical skills people need representing them in the European Parliament.

  • “That attitude unfortunately survives in councils where unionists refuse power sharing gestures.”

    Brian, there is ‘power-sharing’ in BCC but tribalism rules the roost. Perhaps we should be grateful to APNI for putting forward its motion rather than abstaining on the Nationalist motion; this may have taken some of the sting out of the confrontation.

    Moyle DC has had power-sharing for years but it hasn’t put a brake on tribalism; if anything, the tribalism has increased as more and more councillors have danced to a party tune. Should there be an unpredicted development in the chamber some of these councillors slip outside to get a determination from party HQ ie on those occasions they are little more than drones.

    The power-sharing mantra sounds good but, in practice, it’s little more than an opportunity to share a few baubles; it’s certainly not about sharing power and resources in the best interests of all; the larger tribe determines where the resources flow – within the constraints of legislation.

  • GEF

    Give it a week or so and all this flag hpye will be forgotten
    Funny when the Union flag flew on top of the City Hall I hardly noticed it so high up there. However if this new proposal by the DUP to fly the Union Flag for 365 days at the cenotaph is backed by alliance the flag will be on display for all to see being closer to the ground. Surely this cannot be of annoyance to SF & SDLP.

  • “the delicious irony of preaching peace and conflict resolution”

    Chris, I thought most of that sort of preaching was done by your acquaintances in Sinn Fein. I wonder what the atmosphere is like in the OFMDFM today; all this cross-party tribalism is likely to sour the milk.

    It’s a little strange that anyone should take the Peter and Martin ‘reaching out’ lingo seriously; it’s best to have a good laugh at both – though maybe not in the presence of their minders 😉

  • “That depressing experience apart”

    Man with Celtic attire and woman with Linfield attire ‘scuttling off’ in opposite directions but no jigging at the cross-roads. I’m sorry I missed that – well, maybe not 🙂

  • Old Mortality

    I’m entirely in agreement with the Union flag being flown only on certain official days. A municipal flag should be flown for the rest.
    But is it not ironic, if not contemptible, that the majority of voters supporting parties calling for the complete disappearance of the Union flag are dependent for their livelihoods on the state which that flag represents. In many cases, dependency was actively promoted by those parties.
    Irish taxpayers must be impatient to embrace such people.

  • SK

    “But is it not ironic, if not contemptible, that the majority of voters supporting parties calling for the complete disappearance of the Union flag are dependent for their livelihoods on the state which that flag represents.”


    What is really contemptible, and bordering on the sectarian, is the insinuation that the majority of nationalists are some kind scrounging underclass who should merely be thankful for what they’re given.

    Incidentally, it’s highly doubtful that the scumbags who rioted over their rag coming down were up for work this morning.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘What is really contemptible, and bordering on the sectarian, is the insinuation that the majority of nationalists are some kind scrounging underclass ‘
    Well, is is not true that SF is pointedly reminded by Irish politicians among others that West Belfast is one of the most impoverished areas of NI? Do they all manage on handouts from St Vincent de Paul? Then there are the teachers, the NHS employees, the solicitors as well as bog standard civil servants. Have I arrived at a majority yet?
    You’re almost certainly right about the majority of the protestors but they’re not rejecting the hand that feeds them.
    Any thoughts on my point about Irish taxpayers?

  • Alan N/Ards


    I’m looking forward to the day that you and your party start calling for the republican Tricolour and republican 9 county ulster flag to be removed from international games by the IRFU. This would be a gesture towards the players and fans from the unionist tribe who support this all island team. The political decision to flag these flags and play the Soldier’s Song, in my eyes, is an insult to these players and supporters. Ulster rugby have stopped flying the Union flag at Ravenhill so why can’t republicans in the IRFU respond in kind. If your party is really genuine about equality then let us hear you shouting from the roof tops about the political flying of these republican emblems in a cross community sport.

    This is also directed at the SDLP and Alliance.

  • Todd

    “If your party is really genuine about equality then let us hear you shouting from the roof tops about the political flying of these republican emblems in a cross community sport. ”

    These are the same rugby supporters that bring the ni flag to provincial games instead of the correct 9 county Ulster flag?

  • Alan N/Ards


    Are you in favour of the republican Tricolour and nine county flag being flown at internatinal games? Neither of these flags represent unionist’s.

    Many unionist’s find it hard to accept the republican nine county flag as their own so they compromise with the six county NI flag. I have no interest in what flag supporters bring to the games as that is their personal choice. What I do dislike with a passion is the political decision take by the IRFU to fly the republican flags as the emblems for a cross community/inter tribe ( call what you like) rugby team. The hypocrisy shown by the so called parties of equality ie SF, SDLP and Alliance is incredible.

  • Neil


    it’s not really our position to lobby for the removal of our flag from events – would be kind of like Unionists lobbying for the removal of the Union Jack – have you ever heard of such a thing? I haven’t. That we have literally no power to suggest or recommend such a thing may also come into it.

  • Alan N/Ards


    I have no problem with the republican Tricolour being used for teams that are actually a 26 county team. That is right and proper. But to impose a flag on a team that represents the whole island is wrong. Is nationalism/republicanism about genuine unity or is it about something that unionist’s have been accused of….domination. The political decision to flag the republican emblems for a cross community/tribe team is wrong. It is as wrong as the IFA insisting on God save The Queen at NI games. I would like the IFA to play a Northern Irish anthem which would represent everyone in the team. No problems with that. It seems to me that republicans like many unionist’s can only define themselves by the colours on a flag, A friend posted onfacebook tonight that britishness has been instilled her from birrth and she doesn’t need fly a flag to prove her britishness. It seems a lot of people on this island from, both tribes, think differently.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Alan N/Ards,

    I don’t always agree with you but about the rugby I do agree. It’s the only ‘big’ sport in Ireland where Unionists participate fully to the benefit and prestige of the whole of Ireland. I think most honest rugby fans in Ireland know that the IRFU is stronger and better for the input of all the Ulstermen.

    The challenge is to find a popular flag and anthem everyone will buy into.

  • Neil

    Alan, I don’t disagree. I just don’t think it’s likely to expect Nationalists to push for that, but who knows it could happen. I suspect it will be up to Unionists, possibly the ones on the team.

  • Alan N/Ards


    If republicans are genuinely seeking unification of the people on this island then they need to get real. The Tricolour will never be acceptable to unionism. No unionist will rally to this flag. They should be shouting to the high heavens if they are genuine about equality and reconciliation

    When the island of Ireland team claimed the six nations a few years a go the players from the 26 counties wrapped themselves in the Tricolour. The 3 ulster players stood apart from them holding high an Ulster Rugby flag. Says it all.

    No offence Neil but republicanism has to go a whole lot further to prove that they are genuine in trying to reach out to unionism. I know that you are going to come back with the opposite argument regarding unionism and flags and that’s fair enough. ROC has got it right in saying that ulster rugby players make the team stronger. Why not give them and the ulster fans a bit of respect at these games. I long for the day when the political flying of your flag and playing of your anthem ceases to happen.

    The IRFU stated a number of years ago that the Soldiers Song is only played because the President is in attendance. At the recent game against Fiji the anthem was played yet I didn’t see the President at the game. I wonder can anybody confirm this.

  • ‘…..but rather continue with the delusional assumption that catholics will embrace a future as part of the union, without having their cultural and political identities embedded in such a vision…..’
    and there you’ve nailed it, Chris. This is the get out of gaol pass that Robbo has come up with which allows the OO not to have to moderate their conduct at marches because themmuns are staying with the union for their own reasons. This is the logic of their ‘outreach, as if. No need for DUP/UUP/TUV goons marching past catholic churches singing sectarian song with no need to worry that this might be against their interests when a referendum comes up and this is remembered. Themmuns aren’t going to pull the plug on the colony since they’ve nowhere else to go.
    Next Tuesday is going to be depressing at DUP hq.

  • Mick Fealty


    I see why you interpret the semiotics the way you do, but I don’t think that’s how it is playing on the other side. You mess with the flag and you stir both trouble and support for the DUP.

    Peter’s task is first and formost to fill out what a British Ireland looks like. It comes with a flag, and one it does not have to apologise for or try to hide.

    It may also come with a nod to the wider traditions, and we’ve seen some limited progress on that in the last few years.

    But Unionists have an advantage that Republicans and Nationalists do not have. That’s possession/incumbency.

    Some Catholics will back the unionist position in a border poll. Those that will are the kind that I went to school with, who hated the Irish language and GAA and rather self consciously played soccer and cricket.

    But it will also number people who are quite minded towards a united Ireland, but just don’t want their lives (and those of their kids) screwed up over the head of it.

    IMHO, that condition requires from the leaders (or increasingly, the leader) of Nationalist politics in Northern Ireland something more than daft talk about demographic warfare of which there is absolutely zero evidence of it being capable of mastering and winning.

    Rather it is a tactic, a bit like the one used by Jim McGuinness’s Donegal team to ensure you don’t lose in the short term. In that sense I wouldn’t decry it, since it is slowly choking off the SDLP as a viable political entity.

    It’s just not fit for winning the final, if and when you eventually get there.

  • Mick. I watched Jeffrey Donaldson on the spotlight panel from a few feet away, coming out with the line that in a poll taken earlier, the flag wasn’t considered a priority and that it showed most people in the city didn’t mind it flying, but that’s avoiding the point that he knows that the nationalists in belfast know the motives of those who insist on it being there ‘in your face’ even though they’ve lost the numbers in the city hall to effect it so they’ve got the mob out to intimidate the alliance councillors from doing their job. Which, as the holder of the balance of power, they are entitled to do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep, I buy all that nice liberal #getalongerist stuff as you might expect Dan, except that in Newry, the SDLP/SF council said “stuff your good relations, we’re doing this anyway”.

    So which is it?

  • “Peter’s task is first and foremost to fill out what a British Ireland looks like.”

    Mick, ‘British Ireland’ is a quaint term to use; it doesn’t remind me of anything that Peter and the DUP say on their website.

    As I interpret their words, they view Northern Ireland not as part of the island but as a constituent part of the UK alongside England, Scotland and Wales and their view of a ‘shared society’ as a shared society across the UK. Even though DUP members sit on the NSMC and the BIC, the Republic doesn’t even rate a mention in the DUP vision. So much for good neighbourly relations.

  • DC

    being there ‘in your face’ even though they’ve lost the numbers in the city hall to effect it so they’ve got the mob out to intimidate the alliance councillors from doing their job. Which, as the holder of the balance of power, they are entitled to do.

    After a little study, I would have preferred 2 Alliance members to have voted in favour with the Unionists to block the motion, the other 4 abstain. Simply because it was an amendment to the removal of the flag altogether and seemingly the Alliance party has appended its minority party position to the majority republican/nationalist bloc, originally it was a very negative ‘get the flag down’ motion. Party politics come a poor second to pervasive national identities, never mind minority party politics!

    There is also another issue re democracy in that what is the point engaging in democratic politics if it leads as per the zero sum approach to a reduction and removal of the existing civic identity?

    (It seems the priority to tackle the nice civic, formal flag flying arrangement around city hall could be misplaced because what about all the paramilitary flags flying around chapels the real pain in the arse stuff that rightly gets the anti-flag, good relations lobby bonkers? Nothing will happen about that this summer, just like last. The PSNI won’t and don’t enforce the law, so the cheap junk stuff will be smattered around, most of it illegal, it will continue to fly while Belfast City Council remains bare.)

    Upon reflection, I’m somewhat saddened to see the flag go, also certain people I have spoken to at work where i can in a quiet corner given the regulation of this kind of stuff at work, mostly female and over 40 and also residents of Belfast unlike me, what you would call civic unionists, are also saddened to see the flag go. Another tradition broken, this time as the consultation showed – a pretty harmless one. Melancholy.

    I would also be appalled and sickened if anything happened to the Alliance reps, politicians like people are allowed to make mistakes.