The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Second Coming – WB Yeats
Okay, I do get the flag stuff. As Unionists point out, it is perfectly proper to fly the flag of the jurisdiction we have all, north and south, consented to be part of until there’s sufficient consent to leave.
Although the Union flag may – and on occasion for good reason – be seen as provocative, it is still a symbol of something embedded in the Belfast Agreement and part of what was agreed to, nay, demanded by the SDLP and Sinn Fein in all island referendums.
Signalling it as provocative is a case of demanding you get to keep your wee piece of cake whilst then eating it at the same time.
But, it’s not quite so simple as that. Here’s the grand weakness in Belfast Unionism’s argument, from one Basil McCrea:
Lisburn City Council, which is unionist-dominated, has had designated days as its policy for a long time. Part of that is because we should be doing what is commonplace in the rest of United Kingdom. The Union Flag should not be used as a political pawn – it should be respected properly.
As for the issue about leaflets, I think that whatever the intentions of the people who put them out, acting in the manner that they did is counter-productive.
This little pearl of wisdom and commonsense comes from a politician who may shortly find himself chucked out of his own political home as a result of sharing it with us. It tells you a lot of about a set of politics which has struggled to get beyond old arguments.
The money and patronage which came with the GFA is – in the longer run at least – not enough to vouchsafe good behaviours on either side. When a party of government (ie a constituent member of OFMdFM) goes out on protest we get to see just how fragile our peace can become.
A fragility demonstrated ably by the attack on Sammy Brush’s home, just week’s after finding himself isolated by constitutional nationalist colleagues on Dungannon District Council in favour of the guy who tried to kill him back in the early nineties.
If there is no robust and civic middle then we can all be picked off, one by one…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty