Flegs and Anthems

On The RoadI was interested to note the Union Flag carefully positioned immediately beside Belfast PUP Councillor Julie-Anne Corr Johnson for her interview with BBC NI’s The View recently. “On one hand they tell us the British identity of Northern Ireland citizens is under threat”, she thundered, “whilst at the same time denying British citizens like me access to British laws and British rights.” The openly lesbian Corr Johnson was objecting to the DUP campaign for a ‘religious opt-out’ to equality laws for same-sex couples.

It was interesting, because in Northern Ireland flags aren’t usually identified as symbols of equality or human rights. In particular, those most likely to consider the Union Flag an important political symbol have traditionally been those in Northern Ireland least likely to support gay rights; on gay pride marches, neither Union Flags nor Tricolours are to be seen at all. In that context, Corr Johnson’s positioning of herself with the flag was an interesting and clever subversion of the accepted political order. I’m a Unionist and a Loyalist too, Corr Johnson was saying, and actually people like me are the ones committed to actual British values, not the DUP and TUV.

That sort of cultural positioning and visual imagery is common in the United States, where the flag and Constitution seem to outsiders almost to be objects of worship. Over there, claiming a share in the flag is now a core strategy of not just LGBT activists, but minority activists in general. Was it always thus?

One of my favourite scenes from the inspiring if hagiographic biopic Milk, is that where the eponymous hero takes a leading part in the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade as San Francisco’s first openly gay councillor. Behind him in the cinematic recreation, a gay teachers’ association contingent flies several gigantic Stars and Stripes, one of them carried by an African-American woman, as they parade down Polk Street through the gay ghetto. “This is our country too” is the silent message conveyed by the images.

The scene was pure fiction, a film director’s reinterpretation of what would be politically useful in 2008 to have happened. Surviving video footage of the actual 1978 Freedom Day Parade on YouTube, in contrast, shows a single, rather small, Stars and Stripes being flown over the course of about nine minutes. At San Francisco City Hall, the rainbow flag alternates with the Bear Flag of the State of California, with Old Glory nowhere in sight. It is easy to forget from the current vantage that these were the years after Watergate and the conclusion of the Vietnam ignominy, when American patriotism ebbed at all-time lows. San Francisco was the most left-wing major city in the US, and that political hue was still brighter in a gay and lesbian community largely composed of those who fled bigotry by conservatives wrapping themselves in the flag in the heartland. Indeed, across the Western world, the young and urban in 1978 were sure they were going to reinvent society, ending its petit bourgeois obsession with national chauvinism and militarism.

In the main, San Francisco gays in 1978 didn’t want to become respectable parts of American society – they were too busy questioning the whole concept of American society. And that of respectability.

Those were the days before AIDS, before Reagan, before the end of the Cold War and long before 9/11. It’s not just that the past is a different country where they do things differently; it’s that we constantly reinvent our pasts to suit our presents. The meanings of flags, like all repositories of communal identity, are constantly changing.

In deeply divided societies, flags can be particularly divisive; but they can, even in the most challenging contexts, unite.

In 2011, I was on a rally organised by people from Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest and poorest slum, for better sanitation (this is the sort of thing that High Anglican missionaries do). In parts of the township, 30 families share one toilet. It’s not an issue that most of us really understand the consequences of – from being late for work because of the size of the early morning loo queue, to women having to walk some of the most dangerous streets in the world in the middle of the night because they have a call of nature, to the townships’ catastrophic levels of infant death from diarrhoea. That lack of understanding applies equally to middle-class South Africans. And so on a gorgeous day in late April autumn, I was one of maybe 100 White people and ever fewer Coloured people in a crowd of 20,000 at Cape Town’s Council Offices. All of modern South Africa’s divisions were right around me: new to the country, it seemed to embody the death of the dream of the Rainbow Nation.

After a bit of speechifying in three languages, and a bit of boogieing to a set by a local kwaito hip-hop act, proceedings concluded with the National Anthem. In front of me were three Black township kids, maybe nine or ten years old. Having turned about 20 degrees to face the flag, they started belting out Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica at the top of their voices with hands on heart. I wondered what would happen when it came to the last part, when the key and tune change to the final verse of the old, apartheid era, national anthem, two lines in Afrikaans and two lines in English. I watched closely.

And afterwards I felt almost embarrassed that I had, because they just continued belting it all out, hands on hearts, “Uit die blou van onze hemel” – what had once not only been the language of the oppressor, but the very anthem of the oppressor. But to these lads, born perhaps desperately poor but as free and equal citizens in 2001 or 2002, it wasn’t any of those things. It was just the National Anthem. And they were obviously proud of their country, as they have every right to be.

043It works the other way too. Afrikaner owned farms seem to compete to see which can fly the most ludicrously oversized flag. The Cape-vs-North divide in Afrikaner identity has always been profound, so I wondered would it be the same up North as in the more genteel territory of Cape Winelands and the Garden Route which I got to know first. But in the Eastern Free State, conservative Afrikaner farmers draped the flag on their pickup trucks. In the tidy little dorps strung along the N1 Cape to Jo’burg road through the desert, most of the shops – and the shops are still mostly White-owned – had the flag flying somewhere, if not in the window, then on a counter display or poster.

It’s not that South Africa doesn’t have its problems with racial divisions. It has the obvious ones, like the 9:1 wealth gap and 7:1 unemployment rate gap between Whites and Blacks. Illiteracy and AIDS are enormous social problems – but not for Whites. The standard of discourse on talk radio would make Stephen Nolan blush. There are also the subtle things: in small towns, the pubs all seemed to be mixed, but Whites and Coloureds always seem to be in the main bar, and blacks in the Lounge. Everybody was perfectly nice in those places but there was little real social contact, not helped by the fact that few Whites or Coloureds speak any African languages, and few Blacks want to struggle through Saturday night conversations in a second or third language after a few beers.

In most ways, South Africa is a profoundly more divided society than Northern Ireland: yet the flag and the anthem are about the only things that unite it, symbolising the hope that the rainbow dream of 1994 might not have been sheerest folly.

In Northern Ireland, with all our advantages of wealth, education, and personal security, why is it still so difficult to create common symbolism? There is mythology about 1994 in South Africa, but there is substance undergirding it. Similarly with the journey of 1994-2007 in Northern Ireland; common symbols would make it easier to create a mythology to embed the gains of our own recent past. We are, whether any of us likes it or not, destined to spend the foreseeable future as a semi-detached part of the UK governed under the political architecture agreed in 1998.

Why does national symbolism have an unlimited capacity to get us at each other’s throats? And is that a consequence of the dominant political forces still living in denial about the terms of the deals they signed up to in 1998 and 2007? While you can’t eat a flag, it’s yet to be demonstrated that a stable polity can be built without one.

Follow me at twitter.com/gerrylynch and facebook.com/gi0rtn and catch up with all my blog posts at sammymorse.livejournal.com

  • Redstar2014

    I’m a Unionist and a Loyalist too, Corr Johnson was saying,

    As no one has ever been able to explain the difference, this seems a pointless statement

    Her own party call themselves loyalist- but their title is Unionist !!!!

  • chrisjones2

    What a pointless comment. Could you not find a better scab to pick at?

  • Redstar2014

    If its so pointless- you explain the difference then!!!!

  • Andrew Gallagher

    The difference is that hardly anybody in SA disputed the existence of the state, just the manner in which it was governed. There was a brief flirtation with Afrikaner nationalism after it became clear majority rule was inevitable, but it never took off – probably because to most Afrikaners there was no viable alternative to a “South African” identity.

    Contrast to NI, where a) a distinction can and has been made between British and Irish identity and b) the very existence of the state is in dispute. There is a non-negligible section of the population who will never accept ANY flag or anthem for The North Of Ireland. In SA the people were asked to compromise between rival visions of existence. This is a difficult but in principle tractable problem. In NI the result of having grumpily compromised on tractable matters we are increasingly asked to make a choice between existence and nonexistence. Either a parade exists or it does not. Either an irish language act exists or it does not. Either Northern Ireland exists, or it does not.

  • chrisjones2

    No ………………….. its pointless

  • MainlandUlsterman

    This is interesting. “Reclaiming the flag” has been a recurrent theme in our popular culture for decades – from its use in anti-Establishment fashion in the 60s, to the Sex Pistols in the 70s, to Morrissey and Britpop’s various uses of it in the 90s – and so on. The meaning of the flag has been through the cultural wash so many times, it’s ‘official’ meaning is only one many competing meanings – it means almost as many things as the nation itself does. That’s in a mainstream UK context. The great thing here is an NI Briton like Johnson using it in the same way in Northern Ireland. The antagonism Britishness has to face in a Northern Irish and Irish context has made it difficult for the flag to be used in this more progressive sense. Too often, it’s been needed to make a defiant, defensive point about our right to exist and our right to be accepted as a nationality and as an ethnie on the island.

    But I do feel our use of the flag – and this will sound counter-intuitive to those obsessed with having a go at “fleggers”- has been in a sense too limited. Johnson shows the way forward for the union flag in Northern Ireland – representing values of inclusiveness, tolerance and openness. The flag in Northern Ireland has become associated in some contexts with ethnic division and we may never get away from that, but it can mean so much more, and does to many of us. For me, it’s the flag of a modern, multi-cultural, liberal and tolerant country. Like all countries in the world, we didn’t used to be – and fine, people can harp on the negatives of our past if they want – but better surely to take the flag now for the best of what we are now and what we want to be in the future. There’s nowhere with more need to restate this positive meaning for the flag than Northern Ireland.

    The reality we all need to understand is that the union jack is here to stay in Northern Ireland. Not everyone has to like it of course, but as a marker of the democratic decision over sovereignty of the Northern Irish people, it does deserve acceptance, even or especially from non-Brits and “agnostics”. But further, as we develop (I hope) more mutual respect between the British and separatist Irish traditions on the island, it’s surely better to focus on the positive meanings of people’s flags. And the union flag, like the UK, is as capable of being a progressive symbol as any other.

    When I lived in Dublin, I never quite got used to seeing the tricolour flying on a public building. My gut reaction was and is “IRA” – because growing up in 70s and 80s Northern Ireland, that has been deeply ingrained in my associative mind-map for that flag. I expect it’s a similar thing for nationalists with the union jack. But the key thing is, my initial recoil at the flag wasn’t the end of the story. My rational brain then kicked in and said, this is the sovereign flag here, it isn’t being flown in support of terrorism and to most people here it stands for the same things the union jack stands for for me – democracy, freedom, liberal values etc. Its other negative meaning for me is real but doesn’t trump the right of the Irish to keep it as their flag and imbue it with more positive values. So I felt pain seeing the flag; but I didn’t *take offence* at it.

    Respect for a flag is bound up very closely with respect for the people whose flag it is. I felt I couldn’t claim to respect people in the Republic while holding to a purely negative view of their flag. The same goes, I think, the other way – I expect acceptance for the union jack from Irish people. Johnson has perhaps helped remind people that flags can be so much better than just petty nationalistic symbols – if we want them to be.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well, (a) is right but (b) isn’t quite. It may have been true before 1998, but the existence of the Northern Ireland state is surely no longer under dispute. Referenda in the ROI and NI, an international agreement with unequivocal statements of the acceptance of NI from all major Irish nationalist parties, etc. What’s the dispute?

    And yet, I think South Africa did achieve something with its new flag – and here perhaps is the parallel. The borders of the state, in both cases, have continued, it is the same legal country as before, but both are being governed differently. In South Africa, through the introduction of full democracy; in Northern Ireland, through the belated acceptance of democracy by minority separatist terrorists. While our achievement in silencing the IRA guns and getting improved local democracy doesn’t really bear comparison with the titanic achievement in South Africa of ending apartheid and establishing a democratic state, they may have been onto something in marking a new beginning with a flag.

    Obviously in our case we have no need of a new national flag, as the changes in Northern Ireland are only to an 1.8million person region in a country of 60+ million and aren’t really earth-shattering on a national UK scale. But in terms of our regional NI flag, I’ve long thought we should move towards a new NI flag that better reflected both communities’ sense of belonging. We could still fly the old one as well, but progressive people might show their values and colours under a new banner, reflecting a diverse Northern Ireland, cemented for the long term in one of the world’s most diverse and progressive nations, the UK. It will upset many but actually it’s low risk – support for the new flag would be small initially perhaps but with official backing and use at sports fixtures, would grow over future decades.

  • Davros64

    Why would you want to be either? They’re both deep-rooted in paranoia & bigotry…

  • Tacapall

    Redstar you can be a unionist and a republican but you cant be a loyalist and a republican. But the other interesting comment from Julie-Anne is her description of her British identity, unlike others who would have us believe this part of Ireland is the only part of the UK that has no nationality, like the Scottish, Welsh or English who have their own nationalities but British identities. Unionism and Loyalism seem unable to describe themselves as Irish but with a British identity. The truth is the flag does not represent their identity or nationality but represents their religion, they see themselve as a different type of British than those of the other three parts of the union.

  • LordSummerisle

    “(this is the sort of thing that High Anglican missionaries do)”

    Before or after the Gin and Lace ?

  • Turgon

    Yes I noticed that bit as well. I hope said missionaries are not so “high” that they do not also build the toilets. The Presbyterian missionaries (and those of other denominations including Anglican and Catholic) I know are usually more into making toilets, schools, clinics etc. and working in them.

    They seem to prioritise this over running about telling the governments of their host countries to make said basic and vital pieces of infrastructure. Then again I am sure marching demanding toilets is so much more exciting (and less hard work) than toiling in a hot country building them.

  • Gerry Lynch

    After the lace and before the gin. 😉

    FWIW, I dislike all but the most restrained displays of lace.

  • Gerry Lynch

    You know, that’s exactly the sort of thing that people on the British hard-right said to missionaries whose primary role was in the struggle against apartheid? And, like them, my tasks were set by South Africans who knew what they actually needed rather than by people at the other end of the world making political and religious jibes. But I’ll explain in practical terms why you’re wrong in the context of Cape Town (which, incidentally, is hot for less than half the year).

    In a city with desperate levels of unemployment and nothing resembling a social safety net as we might understand it, surely it’s more useful better to create paying jobs for local people in need of work? Especially when my construction skills are considerably poorer than tends of thousands of unemployed Capetonians. (I can hardly draw a straight line with a ruler, let alone build a wall!)

    The lack of toilets in Cape Town townships is no more an issue of lack of building materials – which are abundant – for jerry-built toilets than it is of lack of labour. The issues are on a much bigger scale.

    You need to remember that Cape Town townships already have homes built on almost every square inch of usable land and some that isn’t (e.g. homes built on ground that turns into swamps in the winter). The City Council is trying to constrain development within the existing built up limits of the city. Any encroachment of informal settlements outside existing limits is met with a notice to quite enforced by the City of Cape Town’s robust Land Invasion Units.

    So, there isn’t land to build many more toilets, unless you’re going to waltz in and demolish people’s shacks (hint – they won’t let you). You also need to figure out whether the narrow dirt paths that are the only roads in the heart of townships could handle heavy sewage truck movements every day to the only plots of land where additional toilets could be built – many can’t, especially in winter. Because if you don’t truck the sewage out efficiently, you’re going to be dealing with giardiasis and Hep A epidemics in children PDQ.

    So rather than building toilets, you’re running into serious urban planning issues – how do you build 21st century formal housing, put in tarmacked roads, ideally wide enough to allow public transport (because few township dwellers own cars and work is usually 30km away in the City Bowl), and at the same time densify neighbourhoods that are already hyperdense.

    Then, there’s an even bigger job – plumbing and canalisation systems capable of handling close to a million homes on the Cape Flats currently not connected – a job for dozens of professional engineers and thousands of workers.

    And you need to do that in a city where about 100,000 people are arriving every year chasing the dream, from desperate rural poverty in other parts of South Africa and from places like Zimbabwe. At the same time you need to convince the middle-classes who pay the taxes that this won’t be another issue where their money goes down a giant corruption sinkhole and will make of a difference to the lives of their poorest neighbours. Especially as this is the only major city in the country where the White middle-class largely sets the political agenda.

    All that explains why it has been so hard to tackle an issue that both political parties and nearly all private citizens agree is a tragedy. The South Africans who managed me didn’t need foreigners to build toilets; they needed someone with both public policy and campaigning skills, capable of spotting the sticking points where policy wasn’t being implemented in practice and building support across Christian churches and other faiths for making it a priority. There were certainly South Africans better able to do that than I was, but they had jobs already and certainly weren’t able to do the job for free, which I was.

    I’m not going to decry volunteers who build toilets – as I said, I couldn’t do it, I’d be rubbish at it. It makes a big difference, especially in isolated rural communities in very poor countries where building materials and construction skills are both in short supply. But Cape Town is not rural Uganda, and it’s not the correct response in a major metropolis in a medium HDI country which isn’t especially poor but is astonishingly unequal.

    As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “It’s good to pull a drowning man out of a river, but surely better to build a fence to stop him falling in in the first place”.

  • Framer

    A more interesting point is the non-sequitur in the remark “whilst at the same time denying British citizens like me access to British laws and British rights.”
    The British decided to have a devolved legislature in Belfast (and Edinburgh etc.) The locals agreed to this. So it is entirely British and within the GFA settlement that different laws and rights are in existence, or denied, in different parts of the kingdom.
    It is what you all wanted and what you got. Live with it.

  • Turgon

    “I’m not going to decry volunteers who build toilets – as I said, I couldn’t do it, I’d be rubbish at it.”

    How long were you there Mr. Lynch? and what exactly did you do? You know digging is pretty straightforward: darn hard work though. Presbyterian Church volunteers often got that job or else painting or some such.

    Was the only thing your hosts could think of to get you to do was attend a march? Were there not enough locals there or was having one British High Anglican what was going to make the difference?

    Did you do anything else more, maybe, practical? If you did fine: indeed I am impressed.

    That said I think self describing as a missionary is a bit over stating it. I have had several friends who spent summers or even a year in Africa or Asia or South America or Australasia and they would not self describe as missionaries: in the church circles I am used to it would be seen as very pretentious unless you have been there for a number of years (often decades).

    By the way I suspect you were there after 1994 so your jibe about the hard right and apartheid is somewhat miss aimed.

    As to Cape Town only being hot for half the year: I guess that depends on your definition of hot. Comparing it to Northern Ireland (or I suspect Salisbury) it is assuredly hot more than that (and yes I have been and yes I have relatives there).

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And your observation about feeeling “pain seeing the flag” is very revealing in that it not only exposes the NI tendency to hijack and exclusively own a symbol/emblem by “themmuns” but also how we allow “themmuns” to hijack it and disallow our own capacity to claim it as a potential part of us (heritage/identity) too.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Dude, take a chill pill! I dealt with your first piece of personal abuse at length, I’m not going to waste any more of Sunday afternoon dealing with what you’ve just written, suffice to say it’s equally rubbish. I’m away back to the rugby.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Would I be right in guessing you’re an integrationist still angry at losing that particular argument?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not sure I follow …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s offensive and sectarian, Davros64.

    Can’t we all agree no nationality is better than any other? Surely not a controversial thought.

  • Davros64

    Not really. Clearly you haven’t met any loyalists…now they are Offensive And Sectarian!

    Ultimately it shouldn’t be about any nationality agreed, but the Brits moved those goalposts centuries ago with their ever divisive ‘divide-and-rule’ mentality…

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That’s a fair point and one of the problems for me with devolution. However if we had a national overarching bill of rights, we could perhaps prevent local assemblies making illiberal laws. I think there should be limits on the ability of the UK devolved assemblies to legislate away basic fundamental UK citizen rights.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Some loyalists can also be sectarian and offensive, but it doesn’t get you off the hook. Calling *all* unionists “deep-rooted in bigotry” is like something from Sean McBride in the 50s. It’s just abuse and not worthy of these pages. Enough said.

  • sk

    Absolutely terrible, isn’t it? It’s almost as bad as calling *all* Sinn Fein voters morally inferior.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    The point is that it’s a 2 way street. Irish tricolours are theirs so they take it because we let them have have it and then we project all sorts of negative baggage on it (much of it associated with our own local experiences). Simultaneously, the Union Jack is theirs so they take it because the rest of us let them have it and we project all sorts of negative baggage on it etc. Of course there is a form of reciprocity here but it’s clearly not a mutually respectful one but is instead one of self created exclusion. Flags, like a language, are essentially shared and can then be “owned” by anyone who wants to claim them as they can be open to all sorts of interpretations. However, we in NI we don’t treat these things as shared but as mutually exclusive and antipathetic so we reject them and never claim them as our own.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well, that’s not what I said – I said voting SF was a morally bad act. I went to great lengths to be clear in distinguishing between the sin and the sinner – and did not call SF voters “morally inferior” in general, which would be absurd. I said voting SF is a morally reprehensible act, given SF’s continued refusal to condemn or apologise for the Republican Movement’s terrorism. I said the same of any loyalist politicians or parties taking that approach to loyalist terrorism. Voting SF is at best an act of someone with their fingers in their ears, morally, over the Troubles. It’s an insult to the victims of terrorism. All SF voters are guilty of that, though I accept some may be otherwise good, decent people, just with a blindspot over terrorism. Quite a bad blindspot it must be said.

    I’m interested and slightly surprised SK that you seem to defending someone calling all unionists bigots. An absurd position surely, as well as a fairly offensive one?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    OK, I get you! Yes indeed.

  • Davros64

    Ok…sigh…not ‘all’, most, or far too many, in my experience.
    Was partly schooled in that ‘tradition’ in the North, a pretty unedifying experience, not just for myself but my mother too…

  • Davros64

    Daft analogy. So you would criticise all ANC voters then?
    Every regime has blood on its hands, little point in being so self-righteous about it…

  • LordSummerisle

    No lace for me. Two lights are quite enough on the altar along with a plain cross. Surplice, Cassock, Stole are beautiful enough without overcomplicating things with lace and other such ornaments. 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    What analogy?
    Moral vacuum strikes again. Can it really be so hard to grasp that not putting a bomb under someone’s car is better in every way than putting a bomb under someone’s car?
    Of course, every regime has blood on its hands – but so what? Are you suggesting somehow that makes terrorism OK? It’s a complete non-sequitur.
    Do you support loyalist terrorism too then? Or just terrorism for a cause you happen to believe in?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m sorry for your experience. However, to extrapolate from that to “all” or even “most” unionists being bigots isn’t fair.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think you could easily be a loyalist and a (British) republican. Loyalism is at its core about indigenous Northern Ireland British identity, it’s not necessarily support for the House of Windsor (though of course it often does involve that). That’s royalism 🙂 There is a difference.

    Personally I’m for ditching the monarchy after the current Queen dies. So I’m a (unionist) British republican in waiting. But being middle class and unequivocally opposed to political violence, I can’t call myself loyalist.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree – at least that’s the way I understand and use the terms

  • Davros64

    Don’t especially ‘support’ any terrorism but can totally understand why the ANC and the IRA/predecessors did what they did.
    Like many others treated unjustly, they fought fire with fire…good on them for fighting back v. an oppressive regime.

  • Davros64

    Ok, not saying ‘all’ or you are, but most, where an interest is declared, have proved themselves such.

  • Tacapall

    “I think you could easily be a loyalist and a (British) republican”

    In a normal world you would be right MU but not in this part of the globe, loyalism in this country represents supporting the crown, not the one on Lizzies head but the corporation called the crown which she represents.

    Your going to have to expand a little more on that Indigenous Northern Ireland British identity MU especially as the entity called Northern Ireland was formed in 1920 and the plantation of Ireland especially Ulster with English, Welsh and Scottish throughout the ages is fact not fiction.

  • Tacapall

    “the difference between a Republican and Nationalist is the same as the
    difference between a Unionist and Loyalist – the use of violence”

    I would not agree Morph Im a republican and im a pacifist, MU is a British republican and a unionist who I would imagine would not like to use violence, but he has argued in the past that the ends justify the means in regards to the RUC allowing murder to take place apparently in order to stop murder.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “ basically the consensus was that the difference between a Republican and Nationalist is the same as the difference between a Unionist and Loyalist – the use of violence.”

    I agree that this is probably the way these words are actually used in an everyday NI sorta way but I think that Mainland Ulsterman is on to something when, in his comment above, he said “Loyalism is at its core about indigenous Northern Ireland British identity”.

    I’m just sorta thinking out loud here (or whatever the online typing version of that phrase is) so I’m up for being schooled but…Unionism, as the word suggests, refers to the constitutional question. It’s about what people want i.e. to maintain the union with the UK. Loyalism seems to go beyond this and be more about identity, ethnicity and tribal loyality i.e. it’s about why they want to be part of the UK. So if this is correct then loyalists are a subset of Unionists who want to be part of the UK for nationalistic reasons i.e. they see themselves as descended from British people and connected to Britain culturally. A non-loyalist unionist on the other hand might want to be part of the union because he thinks we’re better off economically or whatever.

    I suspect that the vast majority of DUP and UU type unionists are really loyalists in this tribal/nationalistic sense. NI21 were trying to move unionism away from loyalism.

    While the word “Republican” means roughly “someone who doesn’t believe in monarchy” I think in this day and age Irish Republicanism has almost nothing to do with this definition. Modern irish republicanism means specifically wanting to be part of the Irish republic. Like unionism, republicanism is about what people want regarding the constitutional question. Irish nationalism, on the other hand, is about why people want to be part of the Irish republic i.e. they feel that they are descended from native Irish people and are culturally irish etc A non-nationalistic republican may want to be part of ROI because he thinks we’d be better of economically or whatever.

    I suspect that most Republicans, including the vast majority of Sinn Fein voters are Irish nationalists. If there was an irish king on an irish throne Sinn Fein would still want a UI. They are nationalists first and foremost.

    So in conclusion, gentlemen, Republicanism and Unionism are about what people want while loyalism and Irish nationalism are about why they want it i.e. nationalism/tribalism.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Fine for a simple weekday celebration but the weekly feast of the Resurrection needs and deserves more (albeit lace is something that works only in the most restrained quantities). I’ve always seen the woman with the alabaster jar as being someone to emulate. I’ve never really understood squeamishness about chasubles either. Though perhaps we might meet in the middle with a Laudian-style communion – ad orientem with surplice, stole and cope?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gerry, are you exiled to London, by any chance? Do you know Tom Elliot’s old church, All Saints, Margaret Street? It used to be my local when I had a studio in Soho. A wonderful balance of setting and ritual, although perhaps a little too ornate for my Lord Summerisle. But an absolute gift for anyone working every day of the week in the area, but with odd hours free.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Seaan, I’m currently in Salisbury. But I lived in London in my previous spell over here and was a very active parishioner of All SS, Margaret St for four years in the early 2000s. A year as an altar server (but that was a heady and strange experience) and did various other things, including being a regular chef for Sunday after-Mass lunch. Then migrated to my then parish church, St James’, Sussex Gardens, W2 – a lovely place – which made more sense as I’d put down roots in that community, and it was good and high but more of a ‘normal’ parish church at the same time and also more affirming of the priestly ministry of women.
    Thought I’d probably live there forever and then live changed, as it does. Am currently swinging my thurible in Sarum St Martin.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Like yourself, although “High”, I’m also concerned about the affirmation of the priesthood of women. Back in the 1980/90s I’d found All SS a good home for anyone as Liberal High as I might be. If I’m in or near Salisbury this summer I’ll try and catch a Sunday and introduce myself.

  • carl marks

    Hard to agree,
    The SDLP (the Nationalist party) never entered pacts with terror groups the way the UUP/DUP (the Unionist party’s) did and neither did the SDLP form two terror groups (the third force and Ulster resistance) so perhaps the definition does not hold water!

  • LordSummerisle

    Agreed Gerry.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes good on them – they were brilliant, weren’t they? Great guys, great times …

    Perhaps, given what we all owe them for their selfless bravery, they should be given medals, statues, chat shows, tribute records by leading pop stars like Racey, 5 Star or Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers; a triumphant arch … Here’s an idea, how about naming a children’s play area after one?

    Also on “fighting fire with fire” – I think most fire brigades find water works better, or fire-retardant foams.

  • Davros64

    Not unlike those people with an unhealthy fixation on a certain historical event and associated shade of ‘day-glo’ colours, pointless marches and bonfires…
    Maybe that’s what your last line alludes to?

  • Gerry Lynch

    All SS, Margaret Street parishioners are split about 50:50 on women priests. The vicar is in favour, but the parish has “resolutions” in place which prohibit women from presiding at the altar, passed by wafer thin margin majority in the PCC back in 1994. Margaret Street parishioners being what they are, these differing views are held trenchantly and flamboyantly…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Margaret Street parishioners being what they are, these differing views are held trenchantly and flamboyantly…”

    Indeed! I was in the congregation for about twenty years during my film career in London, just up to 1994. Again, in my time there were liberal priests and conservative priests holding differing opinions. But always a stimulating tone of discussion!

  • aber1991

    In Northern Ireland, the Union Flag is usually an anti-Catholic emblem. The exceptions are when it is flown at UK military bases.
    The people who shouted abuse at Catholic children on their way to school in Ardoyne were waving Union Flags. It was Union Flags which Prod thugs planted on the Catholic Church in Dervock. Prods strutting in provocative parades on the Garvaghy road were carrying Union Flags. Likewise through the Markets, through Dungiven and on the Longstone Road, Annalong back in 1953. The Union flag has been used as an anti-Catholic emblem for so long, it has become just that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s been abused, much as the tricolour has. Maybe we should abandon all flags; or we should campaign for their more responsible use and disown irresponsible use. So I’m four-square behind your call for the union flag and tricolour to be used in more responsible ways and not as anti-Catholic or anti-British emblems.