The Flying of Flags
The flying of flags has been a matter of public debate in the past number of weeks. The question many people are asking is why do sections of the Unionist community fly flags and overtly express our Britishness by such methods?
The short answer is that in my personal opinion, the flying of flags etc. is an act of patriotism and an expression of pride in our Country- but at times it is also an act of defiance from a community which feels under siege- but it is important to set all this in context, and explain why our community feel the way we do and why this genuine and deeply held feeling translates itself into overt displays of patriotism.
The PUL community, or at least large sections of us- feel- with more than a little justification- that there is a cultural war being waged against every vestige of Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist culture and that this, campaign if you like, has many fronts- many Trojan horses.
We see the continuous oppression of Protestant culture and traditions through the outrageous decisions of the Parades commission, a body which is overtly hostile to the Unionist community.
We see the criminalisation of culture via the courts process. We see, what we believe to be, the one sided approach to policing and dealing with the past, and all of this feeds in to a growing isolation from the political process- a political process so distant from reality that we now agree fantasy budgets, just so as to keep the institutions on life support.
So with all that in mind, it is unsurprising that there is a feeling within sections of Unionism that we are a community under siege- and as has been evidenced ever since the days of 1912- when the Unionist community feel under siege the response is always one of defiance, so I am not in the least surprised that the flying of flags has increased and that old traditions, such as kerb painting etc., have once again come to the fore.
At its core the flying of flags is a show of patriotism, a celebration of our culture and a defiant signal of our determination to remain British. There is nothing wrong with patriotism. In America citizens are encouraged to flag their flags, to be proud of their patriotism, yet here in Northern Ireland we are branded as sectarian bigots for doing do.
Nationalists demand ‘equality’ and the right to fly two flags- I utterly reject that notion- there can be no equality between the sovereign flag of the United Kingdom and a foreign flag from a neighbouring, and separate, country.
Northern Ireland is a proud part of the United Kingdom, that is our constitutional status, and for all its faults and obvious failures, at least the Belfast Agreement did enshrine the principle of consent. Therefore the Union flag remains sovereign and Northern Ireland remains firmly British.
We are not neutral, and attempts to shift the debate into an arena whereby we submit to the notion that Northern Ireland is half Irish and half British, is a republican tactic which is seeking to pervert, and subvert, the constitutional position of our Country under the fatally flawed, Trojan horse (to quote Gerry Adams) notion of equality.
In North Down, Flag protocols had been a positive development in recent years; these protocols ensured that flags were not disrespected by being left up tattered and torn. There protocols were a good agreement, but as is always the case with statutory bodies, they bank whatever concessions they can and then push for more. They cannot accept an agreement and settle the issue, it always ends up as a process of eradication- every year they have to keep pushing for more, and then they act surprised when the community pushes back?
There has also been much debate around the return to the practice of painting kerbs in some areas. What I will say is that I can understand the anger within our community, I can understand the isolation and subsequently I can understand acts of defiance from a community with nowhere else to turn.