Do we really need another debate about flags?

Tonight our esteemed elected representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly are due to debate driving licences.

Good news – I hear you cry – at last some action may be taken to address the disparity in the cost of driving licences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Last week there was much consternation when it was revealed that learner drivers in Northern Ireland pay nearly twice the price for a provisional licence compared to elsewhere in the UK – £62.50 versus £34. To make matters worse when it comes to renewing a full driving licence it costs £14 in Britain and £30 in Northern Ireland.

So fair play to our MLAs in  taking time from their busy schedules to debate this important issue.

But wait…

Stormont we have a problem.

The motion put forward by DUP’s Pam Cameron, Peter Weir, Lord Morrow and Ian McCrea  actually reads:

“That this Assembly recognises that the principle of consent is central to our constitutional arrangements, whereby there will be no change to the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom unless and until there is a clear majority voting for such change; notes that the SDLP endorsed these principles and constitutional arrangements; expresses its concern at the decision by the Minister of the Environment to exclude the Union Flag from UK Driving Licences issued in Northern Ireland; considers this to be contrary to the constitutional settlement and an unnecessary, politically motivated deviation from a UK wide scheme that has denied Northern Ireland citizens their right to display the national flag on Government documents often used for identification; and calls on the Minister to reverse this decision.”

So basically… flegs.



On December 30th it was announced by the British Government that “British motorists will be able to fly the flag with pride in the new year thanks to government plans to display the Union Flag on driving licences”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said: “People in this country rightly take pride in our national flag which is why I am delighted it will now be displayed on British driving licences. Celebrating Britain strengthens our sense of national identity and our unity. I will feel proud to carry my new licence and I hope others will too.”

However days later it was announced that Northern Ireland would be excluded from the policy because of “particular sensitivities surrounding [national] symbols” in the province.

Cue outrage!

Henry Reilly

Henry Reilly

The venerable UKIP councillor Henry Reilly was particularly upset claiming it would make it more difficult when trying to hire a car overseas. “This decision is insulting to the vast majority of Northern Irish residents who are happy to live in UK and relaxed about UK symbols of statehood being on official UK documents,” he added.

Nigel Dodds

Nigel Dodds

The DUP have been upset since the scheme was first mooted in 2012 and it was suggested that Northern Ireland would be excluded . Speaking at the time North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said “I would remind Mr Cameron that he came to Northern Ireland a number of times and proclaimed himself to be a unionist … he should apply the same policy right across the UK,” he said.

Basil McCrea

Basil McCrea

Speaking ahead of tonight’s debate Basil McCrea asks “are the DUP suggesting that any “deviation from UK wide schemes'” is a threat to current constitutional arrangements and by that logic would they endorse legislation that currently exists in England, Scotland and Wales but not here in Northern Ireland? For example water charges, equal marriage, blood donation, same sex adoption – is legislation necessary in those areas to properly reflect their ‘Britishness’?”

The debate itself is due to kick off tonight at 7.45 and you can watch it live here.

I wouldn’t bother though as a petition of concern has already been tabled by Sinn Fein and the SDLP so the whole thing is a total waste of time.

So what’s the point?

You wouldn’t half know that there’s a general election in a few months.

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  • Ernekid

    What sort of sad f****r feels so insecure about their personal national identity that they need a little picture of a flag on their drivers licence to remind them about it?

  • chrisjones2

    The same sort of sad f****r who feels so insecure about their personal national identity that they need to remove a little picture of a flag on their drivers licence to show they are a Nationalist

  • kalista63

    He’s called David Cameron.

  • kalista63

    See above. Was meant to be a reply to you.

  • carl marks

    the fuss about no change in the NI driving licence, shows how desperate the DUP is to play the mopery card in the upcoming election,we are for a few months of shroud and Flag waving.
    Despite the many many problems we have here from health,education,housing,flags etc Dodds could think of nothing relevant to ask at PMQ’s than will the PM keep spending 2% of GNP on the military. but hey it is one way to wave a flag.
    and Has anybody asked the SDLP minister why it costs so much to get a learner licence, i would love to hear why!

  • carl marks

    Am there is no little picture of the British flag on the NI driving license, so you can’t remove what isn’t there!

  • Alan N/Ards

    Do we need another debate about flags? Simple answer. NO!
    Maybe unionists should be thankful that nationalists have tried to turn NI into a flag free region. If an UI ever comes about it means no tricolour will fly. That’s a relief to me. Just a thought.

  • kalista63

    Actually, my pathetic wee joke gets to the heart of the story which is actually the flip of the OP. Call Me Dave would make a great unionist politician given his fondness for brain farts and tokenistic nationalist posturing, alluding to a Britain that is best forgotten.

    Like his paedophile facillitator hero, he doesn’t believe in society, either. Your man wanted to do away with May Day, the workers day and replace it with Trafalgar Day. His bluff, on the EU, has been called by Merkel and he folded so he resorts to a bit of fleggerism ( think Allison Morris might own the rights to that) on spmething with an EU Fleg on it..

  • AndyB

    Plaid Cymu have been objecting to the plan on behalf of the Welsh as well… see for example or just google plaid cymru driving licence. SNP has been objecting too.

    The Firemen is correct to link this to the forthcoming General Election. The original proposal seems to me to be no more than an ill-thought out attempt on the part of the Conservative party to gain votes by out-Britishing UKIP, with no thought for the consequences everywhere but England.

  • kalista63

    Not a Reebok man?

  • notimetoshine

    Are they serious? Really this must be a joke. There is low and then there is NI. Congratulations to the people of NI you voted this shower in.

  • Morpheus

    The driving licenses are staying exactly how they have been…do the UN know?

  • kalista63

    Snicker for Marathon, Oil of Olay for Ulay, Straburst for Opel Fruits……..we’ve fuckin’ given enough of our kulchure up! We’ll be putting Trojans on our willies next!

    No more!

  • John Gorman

    Did we not have a blog a day or so ago about how Gerry Kelly was running on an aggressively “get themuns out” ticket in North Belfast because he had a photo of Dodds with his collarette on and yet the very next slugger blog to include Dodds has a photo of him with you guessed it a collarette on. As pointed out at the time you would be hard pressed to find a picture with Dodds without a collarette or Union flag and also he is likely to have a very similar picture on his own election literature anyway. As for the licence I think Basil sums up the ridiculous hypocrisy of some perfectly..

  • Practically_Family

    if we take it that (and it’s a safe assumption) that this will continue to be an issue, perhaps one aspect of cross border co-operation could be driver licensing.

    It works with passports.

    Choose who you pay, choose your flag.

  • Morpheus

    Tried to watch the ‘debate’ currently going on in Stormont, it make me ashamed to be from Northern Ireland

  • notimetoshine

    Humiliating isn’t it? If only they were as keen with the economy.

  • David Arnold

    Just another example of how Stormont is the most expensive sandpit on the planet. Cutbacks looming everywhere but there’s still funds to keep these eternal toddlers wrangling over flegs, parades and sex they don’t like. Shut the place down, return direct rule and see if anyone notices.

  • carl marks

    I think if /when a united ireland comes the whole flag thing will have to be sorted out and personally while i regard the Tricolour as my flag we will have to consider a whole new set of symbols for what will be a whole new country.

  • Robin Keogh

    WTF !!

  • tmitch57

    The simple solution is to produce the NI licenses in two versions: one with a Union flag and the other with the EU flag. Each applicant can then just check a box as to which one he wants.

  • David Crookes

    Brilliant, tmitch57.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Why don’t we just scrap the NI Driving License and go down the passport route, any person who wishes a nice union flag on their license can apply to get one in London and any person who wishes a nice Tricolour flag on their license can apply to get one in Dublin. And to keep everyone all happy either one will cost you £14 Quid. Sounds reasonable to me !

  • Dan

    It’s the EU flag on the licence which offends me.

  • the rich get richer

    Re Flags.

    All Flags forthwith should be made of edible materials.

    The way things are going for the less well off in our society they may come in useful !

  • carl marks

    well go and get a packet of Union flag stickers, you can put one on your driving license, your mug at work, on your phone, and your front door to drive demons away!

  • carl marks

    the only problem with that is if it became law, the gang at Stormont would set up another Quango to decide the flavours,

  • barnshee

    Buy a sticker

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’ll be happy to ask him myself, I have a vested interest both ways.

  • carl marks

    please do, and let us know the answer! although i love it when the DUP make fools of themselves but he has questions to answer on this.

  • Kevin Breslin

    We did no such thing, sure we technically voted for the flag on designated days in Belfast … Belfast unionists can enjoy their flag in moderation now.

    I’d back flag free like 20% of the population here, national symbols have no place in local government, Britain, Ireland or Northern Ireland, we should be promoting regional local symbols instead.

    I’d trade no flags on any council, for the flag being on Stormont all year given the principle of consent, with nationalists having to earn an overall majority to change that. Surely that’s a reasonable compromise?

  • banana man

    “This decision is insulting to the vast majority of Northern Irish
    residents who are happy to live in UK and relaxed about UK symbols of
    statehood being on official UK documents,” he added

    just because it appears the majority of Nationalists aren’t in favour of a UI yet Henry doesn’t mean they are exactly happy to have the butchers apron spread across something they have to use every day.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Hi Kevin, Both the SDLP and SF didn’t want the flag to fly at all on city hall. They compromised because they didn’t have the numbers to do that.
    I have come to the point in my life, that if something is divisive then it shouldn’t happen. We need to go the extra mile, and try and make this a more inclusive place. Both sides need to believe that they belong. I wouldn’t have a flag about me.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If Unionists respect the St Patrick Cross in their Union Flag and Nationalists can respect the Orange in the Tricolour, then they can say the symbolism is deeply meaningful to them. Otherwise they’re both putting jingoism before principle. You’ll get both flags at Dublin or Belfast Airport under any constitutional arrangement, the jingoism doesn’t count for much.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Reasonable until you have loads of people doing their driving test in Letterkenny and Dundalk.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As pointed out at the time you would be hard pressed to find a picture with Dodds without a collarette or Union flag and also he is likely to have a very similar picture on his own election literature anyway

    Nice one John!

  • Alan N/Ards

    The extremes ( on both sides) have made both of these flags unacceptable. The tricolour would have been the ideal flag if a peaceful UI was to come about but, violent republicans, have made this flag unusable as a unifying emblem for any peaceful agreed Ireland.
    The loyalist extremists have sullied the national flag of the UK by their violent actions. They have used it to bait the other side, and have destroyed any respect for this flag in NI. Our (so called) politicians have aided and abetted these morons in abusing the flag. If we can’t agree on a flag, then fly none.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Understood, I have no desires to bastardize either flag or symbol, as bad as things have been in these islands, there’s no reason either symbol should yet be outcast for the crimes against humanity done in their names, the way the Nazis did the Oriental peace sign of the swastika.

  • Morpheus

    Amen sister

  • The Lagan

    Does unionism never realise that by NOT forcing flags down peoples throats, maybe they could begin to make them more acceptable to others?

    Like mixed areas and middle class where they are forced upon.

    Does unionism REALLY not want to promote the union flag as a flag for all?

    No vision! No future!

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Practically_Family

    Which is unreasonable… Why?

    I see LH and DL plates almost daily and I seldom leave East Belfast!