Brian Kennaway and Dominic Bryan on ‘The Historical and Social Impact of Flags and Symbols on our Society’

brian-dominicThe Irish Association and the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s hosted a seminar on ‘The Historical and Social Impact of Flags and Symbols on our Society’ on Tuesday.

Kennaway is a Presbyterian minister, past president of the Irish Association, and author of The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed. Bryan is director of the Institute of Irish Studies and Reader in Social Anthropology at Queen’s. He may be known to some Slugger readers as the researcher who has consistently, year on year, counted the flags flying on our lampposts. He is one of the co-authors of Queen’s recent report, The Flag Dispute: Anatomy of a Protest.

You can watch Kennaway here:

And Bryan here:

Kennaway’s talk featured a powerpoint with a number of images of banners and flags, which you can see here (with 62 slides in the presentation, there’s a lot of images, underscoring the variety of flags – and the creativity of those who design them).

 

The flags and banners included notable Orange symbols (like William of Orange at the Boyne), events like the drowning of Protestants in the River Bann in 1641, and those depicting trades and church connections, amongst others.

Kennaway also presented images of flags and symbols from the era of the third home rule crisis (1912-1914), pointing out that many of these flags ‘had no legal standing in the British military’ because they did not conform to the protocols of the time. He then compared the flags and symbols used by the ‘modern UVF’ to those used by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1913-1914.

This comparison helped him to address two key questions: 1) Are these flags and symbols ‘authentic’ communications?; and 2) Are they legal?

Kennaway wryly observed that the modern UVF will sometimes add ‘1912’ or ‘For God and Ulster’ to a flag to make it ‘historical’, and therefore something they claim can be flown ‘legitimately.’ He also pointed out that the UVF was formed in 1913, so to add 1912 to a flag is not a strict historical representation.

He finished by asking, ‘What constitutes an authentic replica of the Ulster Volunteer Force Colours 1913-1914’?, concluding:

  • They must have the Union flag in the upper canton
  • They must NOT have the ‘For God and Ulster’ badge logo
  • They must NOT have battle honours listed

Of course, the subtext here is that a lot of flags that we see flown today are not ‘authentic’ – and also probably not legal. [Editors note: Rev Kennaway has asked us to point that the Organisations they represent are proscribed BUT to the best of his knowledge NO Flag has been proscribed.]

Bryan’s talk was titled, ‘Flag Disputes as “Normal” Politics,’ and he opened by asking, ‘how was anyone surprised at the flag protest that broke out in 2012?’ He pointed out that ‘this is how we’ve done politics in Northern Ireland’ – symbolic contests are an expected and ‘normal’ aspect of our political landscape. Bryan then recited an impressive array of statistics cataloguing figures of attacks on ‘symbolic premises’ like Orange Halls, churches, GAA premises, and the like.

Bryan noted that when writing The Flag Dispute report, he debated with some of its co-authors whether the flag dispute was in fact less disruptive than symbolic protests in the past. Bryan thinks that it has been, but this was not something on which the researchers could agree.

He also outlined some of the regulations that have developed, over time, to try and manage flags and emblems. He characterised the 1954 Flags and Emblems Display Act Northern Ireland as ‘legislation to ensure that under no circumstances could the Union flag be removed,’ noting that this created headaches for the police. The Flags Northern Ireland Order 2000 authorised the Secretary of State to make regulations on flying flags on government buildings – but left it up to councils to decide their own practices. (This, of course, would later prove to be a catalyst for the 2012 flag protests as they were sparked by a vote in Belfast City Council.) He also noted the Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas, but said that in effect this protocol has been mostly ignored: ‘it has made no difference to the flags flying.’

Bryan concluded by acknowledging the promise of the proposed Commission on Identity, Culture and Tradition in the Stormont House Agreement – but sounded a note of caution. He worried that its remit is so wide, ‘it may be biting off too much – is it a way of hiding the problem rather than dealing with it?’

A number of issues were raised during the discussion period – amongst them the issue of a new flag for Northern Ireland.

Kennaway dismissed the suggestion out of hand, saying it would create ‘a whole new scenario of chaos.’

Bryan has often said that he supports the idea, and he confirmed that he has not changed his mind. He said that he thinks it should include the red hand of Ulster, as a symbol that has been used by people from ‘both communities.’ As he had said earlier during his presentation, ‘we can come to solutions [about symbols] with creativity and imagination,’ citing the PSNI emblem as an example of this. Although the Patten Report had recommended a neutral symbol, Bryan thought that it was better that this recommendation was not heeded and the emblem included symbols from various traditions.

Bryan also said that he thought we ‘need leadership that names the problem’ of allowing symbolic contests to dominate politics. It is too easy for politicians to resort to campaigning on symbolic rather than substantive issues. He recommended developing a set of principles, similar to the Mitchell Principles used in the negotiations for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, about how we engage in public spaces. These could apply to politicians and citizens alike.

 

  • Cue Bono

    What are you struggling to comprehend? The notion that someone might check up on your claims?

  • Cue Bono

    I call out bullshit when I see it. You should be well aware of that. Bowman’s essay is top heavy with bullshit, however I will source his book and check to see if you have quoted him out of context as you did with the other books you supposedly quoted.

  • Cue Bono

    It effects your arguments for the very reason that you used the quotes to sneer at the reputation o the Ulter Division, but completely ignored the high praise that was heaped on them by their German enemy. That is the danger with relying on Wikipeadia, which is heavily patrolled by republican trolls, and trying to pretend that you have actually read the books you are quoting. It is inevitabe that you will eventually come up against someone who has either read the book, or who will go out and buy it. I.e. me.

    The quotes you have provided on the YCV are sharply contradicted by the war record of the 14th Rifles and rest assured I will be sourcing that book as well and checking if you have also taken them out of context. I knw from reading ‘Three Cheers for the Derrys’ that the YCV were held in the very highest regard by their UVF contemporaries.

  • Cue Bono

    They don’t add up at all. If we took all the eligible Irish speakers of military age from the Shankill area and reduced that figure by how many had failed to join up, or had joined other branches of the service then we woud be left with a mere handful of men serving in the 9th RIR. Even in the event that they were spread singly around each platoon in that battalion there woud not be enough one for each and one man cannot hold Irish classes for himself in a front line trench. But sure go ahead and publish your ‘research’.

  • submariner

    Yep some more evidence of the Unionist community having no sympathy with loyalist terrorists

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just how anyone who actually cares about the 36th Div. can even begin to take his smug broad outline generalisations as anything but propaganda, and bad propaganda at that.

    There’s an interesting “hidden transcript” (check this term on wikipedia) in Plumer’s fine if rather sarcastic introduction. His praise of Sir Oliver Nugent, who had refused to write an introduction to the book, flags what Plumer really thought about the work. You will have encountered Sir Oliver in my quote regarding the 14th. RIR.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you, CB, only you could abusively dismiss such a carefully researched analysis of the UVF, by someone acknowledged as the current academic expert on the UVF!

    I’d really value a careful analysis of just why you dismiss his work, with some carefully selected quotes that are not simply general “praise ” for the UVF, but forensically answer and dismiss those actual issues Bowman raises in the article, as I have done with your points. Simple abusive dismissal of another persons opinion answers nothing whatsoever.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not every person involved in the Wikipedia project is a republican, CB. I’m a royalist (Jacobite legitimist of course) for starters, and in my experience a good number of the moderators who assess my work on Wikipedia are of exacting scholars from either England or the United States. Not everyone you disagree with is an Irish Republican, hot to do down Ulster, most of the world can go for years without thinking about us at all. Actually, I have read Bowman’s books, and very carefully, which is why I’ve recommended them, and his excellent article, to you. Now the books are in paperback and much cheaper than when the appeared in hardcover, I ought to have them on my shelves.

    About the 14th. Div, I’d stick with Sir Oliver Nugent myself. After all he commanded the 14th. in the field, which is probably not the case with the author of the kind of fan-literature you habitually turn to to shore up what you alraedy think.

    And come on, you only get one part of my analysis of the 36th. Div. here usually, because we are discussing particular very controversial aspects (well at least I’m trying to discuss them, usually to simple unsupported insult on your part). I have no problem whatsoever with their positive achievements (I heard enough very positive things alongside the negative stories from no-nonsense old soldiers whom I’d entirely trust). The actions of 1917 built on hard lessons learnt at the Somme and at Messines (the old soldiers I knew always spoke of the “Battle of Wytschaete”, “White-Sheet”), Third Ypres and Cambrai the units of the 36th. behaved in an exemplorary manner that established their credentials fully with any doubter. This was entirely due to excellent training and preparation to which they brought those hard earned skills learnt from the Somme fighting. Arguably, observation of such “transgressive” skills was an important part of the enemies development of Stoßtruppen in response to these battles. And the withdrawl of the 36th. from St Quintin in March 1918 was every bit as epic and heroic as you would claim every action was. Essensially, my own analysis works on a trajectory where these hard learnt skills are worked up from a rather uneven performance on the Somme to the unquestioned excellence of their performance in 1918. It is such a pity that the myth of the Theipval fighting entirely overshadows the real achievements of those later years that those I spoke with before they died were so justly proud of.

    It’s a pity this discussion is taking place on threads that limit just what can be said and we get bogged down in detail. I have these seriously positive points also, simply we never seem to get on to them as you never seriously attempt to engage with what I’m actually saying.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Actually, CB, you’ve done me a great service in posting as you have on this. For anyone familiar with this kind of number crunching research, the figures you mention pretty much flag that they would add up, so thank you for actually taking the trouble to look and post. The seem to point, even as a tiny sample, to AG’s “one in five” and are pretty strong figures for the most unlikely of spots, the Shankill. I know the Shankill myself well (I used to do my own underage drinking in the pub at the top end of Berlin Street about fifty years back). My own research would cover Cregagh and east Belfast and might overlap a little with Lynda Ervine’s, although I’m a rather bigger sample I think. As you’d imagine my own 36.Div. sample includes the 14th RIR, which is why I’d checked out Bowman’s work about them.

    Again, thanks!

  • Cue Bono

    Of course I did not in any way suggest that only republians use Wikipeadia, but ridiculous generalisations are part of your armoury when trying to smother a lost argument in bullshit. You wrote about the Ulster Division in a sneering, condescending manner so it is a bit rich to pretend now that you are full of praise for them. They weren’t in the 14th Div btw and they weren’t fighting the battle of St Quentin in 1917 either.

    You cannot lift selected derogatory quotes from Wikipeadia and attempt to pass them off as research whilst calling yourself a historian. The Ulster Division performed best of any British Division on the Somme whether regular, territorial or new army. That is a fact. To say that their performance on the Somme was ‘uneven’ is ridiculous given that they alone captured their objectives on the day. The failure on the 1st July was in spite of the excellent performance of the Ulster Division and not because of it.

  • Cue Bono

    A carefully researched analysis of the UVF would have made mention of the thousands of modern Steyr rifes which the UVF possessed and it would have also pointed out that Irish history shows us that even a small number of armed men can reek havoc for decades. I would like to kow who elected Bowman as the leading expert on the UVF, because it seems to me that he would know more about a fish supper.

  • Cue Bono

    I think that the author of the link below puts it very well indeed when talking about Cyril Falls historian.

    “The men and women who served in uniform, 1914 – 1918, were better placed
    to judge the authentic voices of the Great War than their children,
    grandchildren and great-grandchildren……. it is questionable whether the ghost of Cyril Falls, should it appear
    in a bookshop near you, would feel obliged to reconsider too many of his
    literary judgements nor find an excess of new works worthy of his
    highly old-fashioned and discriminatory three-star accolades.”

    http://thegreatwarbookshop.com/2014/04/21/why-we-love-cyril-falls/

    I will read Bowman’s book and find out the context of Nugent’s alleged quote. We have already seen how you have taken other quotes completely out of context through either mischief or ignorance.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Well we both know where we stand, CB. You are simply interested in hagiography, I’m concerned to examine the meaning of events, and describe the process by which things grow and change over time, evaluating research and how it alters what I know, rather than simply saying “that praises the boys, i agree!”.

    For you the Division appears to be composed of clones of even ability, all supermen, all perfect. That is both historically inaccurate and even rather insulting to those who actually were skilful and heroic.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    30,000 rifles in the hands of men not yet trained to use them confronting British regulars, veterans of Imperial conflicts, men whose rifle fire persuaded the German regulars facing them they were employing machine guns……..

  • Cue Bono

    I look forward to you posting your research so that I may have the fun of forensically ripping it apart. That is the danger when you make claims about things that can be easily checked online.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I used to write advertising copy myself, no great confidence may be placed in someone trying to sell you something……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d start subscribing to the “Irish Sword” then, CB, if you want to read my research. I won’t be posting anything online. That’s for amateurs……which is why you seem to be getting only so far in your won understanding of the events.

  • Cue Bono

    Is your research on the “Irish Sword” as reliable as the research you have demonstrated on this thread?

  • Cue Bono

    You post up footage of a funeral as evidence for unionist support for terrorism? Ever see Bobby Sand’s funeral? Now that is what you call an entire community turning out to support terrorism.

  • Cue Bono

    The problem with that theory is that the British army had already refused to stand against the UVF. Some people call it the Curragh mutiny. Those 30,000 rifles were for use against The Irish Volunteers.

  • Cue Bono

    Nonsense. You set out in this conversation to slur the Ulster Division. You sneeringly referred to them as ‘your heroes’ while lifting out of context quotes from Wikipeadia in order to suggest that they behaved in a cowardly fashion. You have been caught out badly and I woud suggest that all your historical claims will require close examination from now on.

  • Cue Bono

    You were concerned with gathering as much evidence as you could to run down the reputation of the Ulster Division. In trying to do so you produced out of context quotes which you had lifted from Wikipeadia. You named books and when I quoted what one of those books actually said, which was in stark contrast to your claims, you made dark threats about legal action and copyright.

    Frankly your comments on this thread have about as much credibility as the Hitler Diaries.

  • Cue Bono

    I’m still trying to work out what it is you are trying to sell.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Honestly, CB, I’m trying to sell a more complete picture of the history, and I genuinely believe that that is more respectful. I truly believe it honours the real “doers” far more.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think if the thing had been pushed to an issue, CB, the British army would have fought the UVF. Not all of them but the rankers would have done as ordered, and a number of senior officers would have carried out orders. I think Bowman is quite accurate, and the sheer disorganisation of the planned defence would have meant that the UVF could not defend Ulster in the face of this, but I’d think it would have been bloodier than Bowman suggests in the article. For a start only 300 men were set aside to hold several thousand IrishVolunteers in the Glynnes of Antrim and the north coast.

    I know you have not believed me in the past, but this eventuality was discussed when I was a kid by elderly officers who would have commanded their UVF companies, and they thought the BRitish army would have fought them. Of course, it did not happen and we do not now know how it would have worked out, but it certainly worried the men wholes tories I remember.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    CB, I was trying to make you think the unthinkable, that the version you’d inherited might have left a great deal out. A few days on , and everything a bit cooler, perhaps we might try and discuss it with a bit of mutual respect. I know you sincerely believe what you’ve read, but if you can accept that under all the “provocation” I’d used to try and get you thinking about these possibilities, this does not contradict what you know now, but serves to expand it.

    But fair enough if you’d prefer to simply continue to contradict me. It’s your right, and its what you feel. I respect that.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Fair enough that’s what you feel. I was trying to crack the shell of a very solid canonic versionthat you were putting forward, one far too strongly established in the collective imagination to remain healthy “history”, but what I was putting in the threads was only a tiny fragment of what I’ve researched, and remember hearing from the old soldiers I mention. The blank denial of the irish language thing riled me rather, but perhaps if we were starting from another place, I’d balance it out with other, more positive information now, but you started by looking for a fight, and that coloured my responses. Good luck in your own researches, and I hope you enjoy a lot of the positive material in Bowman. He’s done a lot of fine work, and it opens new vistas.

  • Am Ghobsmacht
  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed it is! Sound as a bell………

    Seriously, if you do not know the journal, there are any number of fine articles on the 36th. Div. and the Great War, and not all of what they say is going to be pitched to upset you.

  • Cue Bono

    Sorry old bean, but your antics on this thread call your research abilities into serious question.

  • Cue Bono

    Nowhere have I tried to claim that all members o the Ulster Division were irreproachable heroes. What I objected to from you was your absolute efforts to run down the reputation of the entire division. What they did on the 1st July 1916 was head and shoulders above what every other British division, including their reguar ‘betters’ did on the day. That is recognised by just about everyone, but there are always the Irish ‘historians’ who try to delve for denigrating evidence which they use to trash the reputation of very brave men. Simply because they are themmuns. I got a sense of that from you which is what angered me. Perhaps you will rehabilitate yourself in future.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    How about a new start, eh? Not like you are exactly a soft hitter yourself! But you’re striking out for your case, I’m only hitting out for a portion of mine so far. I’m off to work now, signing off, (painting commission to finish and a good quiet night to work).

  • Cue Bono

    Surely by now we can agree that what you think and reality are quite often completely separate things. The Irish volunteers in the Glens of Antrim were not nearly as well armed, or trained as the UVF in the rest of Antrim. Despite the best efforts of the traitor Casement..

  • Cue Bono

    I can’t work out if you are trying to sell a Trojan horse or not. I’ll keep plugging away until I suss that out.

  • Cue Bono

    Okay Seann. I’m always open to learning new things, but just be aware that I will challenge and test what you say.

    How are you on 1641?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The seventeenth century is my primary period, CB, and one of the first houses burnt in 1641 in Monaghan was that of an ancestor of mine.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    He’s talking about two different things, CB, the division as a whole and the performance of one battalion. Even so, his comments here are still pretty subjective, and offer an insight into his thinking only, even though what he is saying may be confirmed by assessment against other evidence.

    I must remind you again of a serious point. Quoting more than about 20-40 words of copyright material outside of a review of a book or similar requires the author’s permission. While Nugent, who wrote the letter died in 1929, this may still apply in this case as the letter is transcribed and re-produced in a copyright work edited by Nicholas Perry, and only published in 2007. If the letter has not been published before, then Perry will hold 25 years copyright, and reproducing the pages of his book infringes copyright in this matter.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    We’ll have to disagree on this, butt most current authorities with whom I’ve discussed the matter feel that the balance would haves strongly favoured the Irish Volunteers.

    Casement used the Wild Geese as his precedent, something I’d be inclined to agree with. “Treason never prospers, what’s the reason, for if it prospers, its no longer treason.” casement did not “prosper” with Britian, Carson did, but both were arming forces to fight the crown.

    Interestingly casement was always full of praise for the UVF, even to the point of being at on point thought of as an outright Unionist apologist at a an Irish Volunteers meeting in Cork during 1914. He had chairs flung at him in the riot that broke out. But in 1914, the UVF were themselves frequently described as “traitors.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d feel we are trying the patience of the editors if we carry on endlessly here. Why not post a “neutral” email, one where your identity is not compromised and I’ll reply and we’ll carry this on privately rather than stretch Mick and David’s not unlimited patience any further.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It requires real research. What CB has done is to simply call up figures for a search using the actual Shankill road itself (not in the “Shankill” area, as CB suggest, but “on” the even then pretty much non-residential main Shankill Road itself). To get accurate figures (and yes, even then its only going to be those who were “motivated” who claimed to speak Irish on the census forms, not every single person) you need to go to street after street, to house after house and assess every single return carefully.

    Ahemm….that’s what I’ve had to do, and the samples I’ve taken that way bear out sizeable numbers of Irish speakers unless I’ve simply been lucky and picked out all the irish speaking streets by chance. No quick answers, as with any any research.