Flagging Support

One of the most interesting aspects of the past few weeks has been that when writing up and taping presentations for Texas….I am reminded that some things have changed and some things have not changed that much over the past fifty years.

This Decade of Centenaries SHOULD include a reference to the Divis Street Riots of 1964. I wasa  12 year old pupil at a nearby school. During a Wstminster Election, the RUC from Hastings Street was prevailed upon by a local firebrand preacher to remove an Irish National Flag from the Election HQ of Billy McMillen, the Republican candidate.

The firebrand preacher threatened to lead “shipyard men” from Harland & Wolffe to remove the offending flag if the RUC did not do their “duty”.

Some historical notes: the firebrand preacher was Rev Ian Paisley who would later serve as Norn Iron’s First Minister ,,,,,,,,,,in partnership with Sinn Féin……….and perhaps more confusingly for younger readers…..the shipyard Harland & Wolffe was actually an industry in Belfast. Think of it as the place where the Titanic Quarter now is.

Tomorrow night at Belfast City Hall…….Ian Paisley’s successors in the DUP will be fighting to keep the British Flag flying at the City Hall all year round, rather than on “designated days”. How times have changed.

Well actually they havent changed that much at all.

Over on Stratagem-O’Toole the excellent “Alan in Belfast” is vexed that the inevitable loyalist protest might lead to some disruption to traffic. Well that is of course true. But another two hours of traffic disruption added to all those detours which try our patience in and around the Twelfth of July…………its a day for everyone (!!!) of course. And only yesterday in Derry there was some disruption caused by the Apprentice Boys of Derry march.

Yet I tend to prefer Reality to Press Relations Sham. Those coming to Belfast City Hall tomorrow about 6pm will see a more authentic Belfast than the one which hosts Justin Bieber and the MTV Awards.

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22 Responses to Flagging Support

  1. I miss this very real Belfast, the one with the crazy Christians preaching from the old band stand in Corn Market as opposed to the somewhat sanitised one we have, though it is not too sanitised if you know where to look.

    I think this whole situation whilst proving a rather sad indictment of unionist pols at BCC is also a great example of a nice and neat pan-Nat front or at least both Nat parties working together on matters that both of their electorates would surely agree on.

    Again, they are both out front of the issue, causing trouble for the enemy and dictating the terms. If their is any trouble at this protest around Donegall Sq South we all know who will get the blame too.

    • Ah one of my old school friends turned Christian in the 1970s and became one of the Corn Market people. Id forgotten how much of the lunch-time scene in Belfast they were.
      I tend to see this in the context of last Christmas. And the Christmas sign in Irish. Alliance got flak for that and now over the Flag issue.
      Certainly there is an East Belfast-Naomi Long aspect to it. But I think pan-nationalist and pan-unionist are exploiting differences in Alliance Party….simplistic of me to say that Alliance is divided on Catholic-Protestant lines……but the upbringing of people does have a bearing on how this is thought of. Catholics get irritated by flag……..Protestants dont notice. And probably a third (secular) strand thinking is it so big an issue.
      Of course I am amused at Alliance being under pressure. To some extent an Alliance party that has two or three seats at Council level can get a patronising pat on the head and an undeserved turn at being Mayor. But an alliance party that has I think six seats is a different animal. They are perceiveda s a bit of a threat.

  2. sammymcnally says:

    Nothing on the Parades Commission site about this protest? Do they not have to apply for permission for such a gathering or is protesting if standing in one spot exempt from the regulations? If so a loophole that needs closing.

  3. FJH – Reading a book about Belfast (celebrating its 400 centenary) yesterday afternoon, I was amazed to read about Paisley’s foray into the world of flag removing. Perhaps those who model themselves on Paisley today should look back and assess the risk of stirring up the issue, even if others raised it first.

    Sammy – I though it would require registration with the PC. And under the failed parading proposals it would have, but I think tipping off the local police is all that is required.

  4. sammymcnally says:

    FJH, Alan,

    Presumably the police have the power to ‘ban’ this protest or any other protest which they deem to have the potential for trouble – it really should be passed on to the PC – and that should mean a change in the legislation or marching organisations(from either side) could organise similar ‘protests’ as alternatives to banned marches.

  5. That flag removal was in pursuance of the Flags and Emblems Act, 1954. So it was a legal, if disreputable, event.

    In retrospect it almost certainly contributed to a rise in temperatures that saw the first political murders two years later:

    I’m not clear why/how it relates to the decade of centenaries. Just another of Mr FJH’s random indulgences?

    I’m really surprised there’s so much angst around this issue. If a unionist bastion like Lisburn can have designated days, why not Belfast?

    • ardmajell55 says:

      MF ‘if a unionist bastion like Lisburn can have designated days, why not Belfast? I’d say the clue was in the safety in numbers for unionists in Liburn comared to the capital, the principle still holds which has led me to the conclusion the loyalists were toipped off on the quiet about what DUP knows of the census to put more bite in the anti-alliance riots. The flag, then is just a proxy if my guess is borne out.

  6. sammymcnally says:

    Yes, Mick, it is a puzzler but only when not looked at from a Unionist perspective – the GFA settlement has prospered because of the beautifully inbuilt ambiguity and when that ambiguity clashes with reality on the ground e.g restrictions on the flying of the ‘National’ flag there is Unionist outrage.

    For many Nats the GFA meant hollowing out the Union from the inside rather than the copperfastening that Unionists had in mind and this looks more like an example of the former rather than the latter.

    …if you are looking for an example of a random indulgence then the boul Kate of Vauxhall is a prime example – she like mnay others inside the broader Unionist tent better hope the nonsense passes of peacefully.

  7. sammymcnally says:

    ..meant to add – the symbolic importance of Belfast obviously puts this way beyond the relative backwater of Lisburn in terms of importance.

  8. Pingback: What connects the NI Census figures, the Union Flag and Peter Robinson’s ‘Catholic Outreach’? | footballcliches

  9. sammymcnally says:


    as I mentioned over on the BD website there is a potentially tricky period ahead for Nationalism if ‘Unionism’ has the sense to accept the status quo which includes as they would see it – some curtailment of ‘their culture’ flags parades etc or as the rest of of us see it the logical outplaying of the GFA.

    The stupidity such as we are about to witness only fragments and divides political unionism and disenchants many sensible, secular unionists who either wont vote at all or will opt for Alliance – but not vote for the UUP or the DUP.

    • Sammy,

      Never fear, idiotic unionism is here! Further, I don’t see the taking down of a number of flags or the OO/loyal orders becoming somewhat sensible in relation to its relations with Nat residents as undermining our ultimate goal or making us more amenable to the union. The Apprentice Boys have an accommodation up in Doire every year yet I don’t see guys in the Bogside all of a sudden becoming ok with the union and I can’t see this being the case elsewhere.

      Fick Mealty thinks political Nationalism is in ‘crisis’. I saw some of the stuff outside City Hall this evening (morning here); I had to laugh at his ‘stray insight’.

  10. hoboroad says:

    29-21 vote for Alliance Party amendment on flying Union flag only on certain days at Belfast City Hall.

  11. sammymcnally says:


    I think Mick F and Peter R may have a point about Nationalism in crisis – but that depends on the outcome of the census – if the perceived slow but steady march towrds a UI is not reflected in the soon-to-be-released census figures then the only Nats smiling will be the dissers.

    In relation to ‘idiotic Unionism’ failure to concentrate on what they have (the border) rather than what they had(domination of Nats) will result in them having even less – e.g. a parades commission that tells them where they can walk.

    • Sammy,

      I’m sorry but I ask you, how is Nationalism in ‘crisis’ at the moment? Really, because I have asked myself, what have we lost and what have we won over the past 2 years? I don’t see how we have lost anything and I don’t see how we are in any kind of crisis but maybe you know something I and many others don’t.

      Over on Bullshit Mountain (I cannot believe I am about to say this) but wind bag Walker has it right when he doesn’t see a crisis amongst Nats, merely the loss of romance in politics here which is equally applicable to both sides. At the moment, nobody is having it good on either side (see tonight on May St for an example) as we do have a massive near depression on the go. Robbo’s words are being seen as that, just words and commentators in the South Belfast state of mind have been shown as foolish for sucking everything Robbo said without serious challenge.

      Seriously, sit down and figure out what exactly is the ‘crisis’ Nationalism is supposed to be in and let us all know as I don’t see it and note that Fick brings this up right around the same time that Robbo did in a ‘Kafflik Outreach’ speech, the clue is in the timing.

      Further, I also don’t see tying the census figures to how Nats feel as that connected to what happens on the ground. It is something of a phony war were pols and commentators will argue over a 10k here or there but as BD has shown with many others regarding schooling, more and more children of a catholic and therefore, rather crudely, probable Nationalist background, we already know how the census is going to go, which just want to see the fine details.

      Most people are not that interested in the census figures, they see small demographic changes happen over months and how this effects estates they live in or near or schools they send their kids to. I think we have an idea that their shall be some more Catholics, some fewer Protestants and some more people self-identifying as ‘Atheist/Agnostic/Jedi/Other’, this means little until the next elections whether it is a Nat starting to seriously challenge for another MLA in Upper Bann etc.

      Though in all fairness Sammy, you do like to put a negative spin or act as devil’s advocate around here even when you should cheer up and view things in a bit of a better light, IMHO.

      • I will take a few points together here lads. Its nearly 4am and I had to get up as I have a bit of a flu.
        I think we are pretty good judges here……of the pan nationalist scene.
        Sammy takes the view that theres a crisis in nationalism.
        FC, Sammy and Hobo take the view that this was a good night for nationalism.
        I wouldnt take Mick Fealtys views too seriously as he is saying that the public consultation was ignored.
        Its almost like the man has a different agenda to us. 😉
        And I am sure when the Census figures are announced he will return to the “nationalism in crisis” theme.

        I think this was an excellent night. The mask of unionist outreach slipped…..and slipped…and slipped. How will Robbo react?
        Well of course the first thing that he will do is condemn the “FOLLY” (that will be his buzzword) of SF,SDLP, Alliance bringing up a “DIVISIVE” (he will use that word too)motion at the great happy place that is the City Hall. He will say how “OUT OF TOUCH” (look out for that phrase too) SF and SDLP is with their own electorate which is increasingly turning to pro-union parties such as……….er the DUP. And of course he will condemn in a muted fashion the violence.
        Yet there is the obvious point that all this was happening just a few feet from the Continental market…..one of those icons of the “New” Belfast.
        Reality triumphed over the Optics.
        I dont take the view that Nationalism is in Crisis…..well not especially. Nor is Unionism ..especially. There is an ongoing tension……an ebb and flow. And being as I am watching these things since Divis Street (1964) then there have certainly been times when unionism has been in the driving seat (1922 to 1969) but certainly an ebb and flow since then. Thats the way it goes. Thats the way it will go.
        And as Ive said too much lately the parallels with the 1960s are very clear.
        O’Neill was no “Taig lover”. In fact some of his comments show that he had no understanding of working class Kaffliks and probably thought the New Ulster Movement types he encountered (G B Newe & Oliver Napier) were his type of Roman Catholic.
        Robinson is no different. He is a man from the East Belfast/South Belfast/Castlereagh triangle. The type of Catholic he has encountered is not typical.
        Ultimately ……even if he is genuine about “outreach” and I doubt it. He is as delusional as Vorster, de Klerk thinking he can deal with a minority of “themmuns”.
        Even if he is ok with Catholics……it is conditional upon them embracing unionism.
        He has no time for nationalists.
        And there are too many within his own Party who are hostile to nationalism and Catholicism.
        There is just no substance there.
        A few points from tonights Debate. The point was made taht this is how SF and SDLP behave when “they have the numbers” ……well yes. It takes the numbers to put a bit of manners on unionism. Note how they opt for power sharing when it favours them.
        But I wonder if this means that those councils (Lisburn for example) might opt to fly the flag all year round as a reprisal.
        War at Council Level? It could happen.

      • ardmajell55 says:

        FC The elections are the better indicator as to the strength of either side, and I don’t trust the NI statistics agency not to exploit the disparity in census respondents refusing to give their affiliation, so as to manipulate the percentages. I suspect Robbo is showing himself looking a bit silly like King Canute denying reality. His judgement must also be questioned in going on to twitter to argue with the ‘great unwashed’ as he did last night.
        It’s clearly rattling him that what he thought last Tuesday, was harming alliance, is according to the newsletter on Friday, was backfiring on unionists instead.

  12. Hard to disagree with that FJH. I am not saying that all is sunny in the metaphorical Nat garden, however, to use the word ‘crisis’ is most definitely a step too far especially as there is little evidence about, unless of course we’re just taking Robbo at his word which I’m sure some would just loooovvvve us to do 🙂

    In all seriousness, all pols are getting a hammering at the moment, no matter where they are. They are being seen to be ineffectual and IMHO from this lots of people, including myself at times, may even speculate about whether we have a ‘crisis of the left’, ‘crisis with capitalism’, ‘crisis with the media’ or insert whatever you want, what I will say is that I suspect that any perceived ‘crisis’ usually goes away as soon as people have a few more shekels in their pockets as everyone sings when they’re winning and we ignore or paper over any problems that still exist, noting we’ll get round to them in a while.

    Robbo’s ‘Kafflik Outreach’ is for all of us to enjoy of course. No, to be fair it is a joy to behold how some ‘serious’ commentators seem to take the bait and not bother to seriously challenge his words in light of the actions of last night, the summer, same sex marriage vote, barring LGBT community from the provision of blood [INSERT ONE FROM A NEAR ENDLESS LIST], granted these people who do the cheer leading are often unicorns who like most converts are often a lot more fanatical about their cause than traditional, long established followers.

  13. sammymcnally says:


    ‘I’m sorry but I ask you, how is Nationalism in ‘crisis’ at the moment?’

    I didnt say at the moment (see below for wording) Nationalism as a minority ideology will be in crisis if there it is not seen to be moving forward in terms of numbers actually in favour of a UI – I think that is the reality, irrespective of who says it, me, Robbo, or Mick F. The obverse is true for Unionism.

    ‘may have a point about Nationalism in crisis – but that depends on the outcome of the census – if the perceived slow but steady march towrds a UI is not reflected in the soon-to-be-released census figures then the only Nats smiling will be the dissers.

    • Sammy,

      Nationalism is not a minority ideology tbf, only a minority in a gerrymandered part of the country a. Now, lets be honest here, we have seen the numbers going to schools and we know that things are changing probably in our favour. I do think you are putting rather too much of a negative spin on these whole numbers when I suspect it will be a minimal movement in our favour, something I simply don’t understand tbf.

      If the numbers aren’t to your liking will you just give up? Hence my disbelief in this placing all your eggs in one basket.

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