So …what exactly happens next?
Well…the nationalist parties do not have to do anything. It’s not really a nationalist problem. Yet there are I think three distinct problems.
The Unionists have a problem. The Flags vote is a defeat.And in moments of crisis, unionists circle the wagons. That is what the unionist “Forum” is. The DUP wagon is there. The UUP wagon is there….but both must be a little unhappy to see that the PUP wagon is there….and the TUV wagon….and the UDA wagon. Those minor parties must be delighted to have the respectability of walking down the staircase at Stormont….John Kyle, Jackie McDonald and even Winkie WhatsHisName…..lapping up the prestige of it all.
Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt….should feel slightly uncomfortable. This is the unacceptable face of Unionism. There was no “liberal” unionist on view….no John McCallister And no Basil McCrea. And of course no Alliance Party faces. Unionist “outreach” to Catholics is now in tatters. When Push comes to Shove….Robbo and TV Mike see more in common with Kyle, McDonald and Winkie.
Unionists need a “victory”. They need to have something to show.
Where is David Ford, the leader of the Alliance Party? He is after all the Minister for Justice. He claims a mandate from the Assembly but in effect he is little more than the creature of the DUP-Sinn Fein coalition. If he had any er…..testicles he might actually take his party out of the coalition but he has simply gone missing in recent weeks. On the other hand, Naomi Long DOES have er….testicles.
The Alliance Party need…something. They are on a hook and they need to get off it. They would claim that they are there because of their principles. I tend to think they are on that hook because they screwed up and/or because they fell into well organised traps set by unionists and/or nationalists. Long established as the Norn Iron’s Office favourite party, they might well be looking to the British Government to get them off the hook.
And of course there is the continuing problem of continuing street violence.
The phone calls, messages and private conversations between unionists and the NIO and the NIO and the Alliance Party…as would the briefings prepared for Theresa VillIers.
Now what happens next…bearing in mind that Villiers has called for “bold moves”.
Well….is it possible that the NIO propose a solution where the flying of the flag is taken out of the hands of councillors…perhaps issue an edict that the flag flies on designated days in EVERY council area. Not just Belfast, Lisburn and Craigavon….but also in Newry, Derry and Omagh. this would have the effect of off-setting the effect of the “greening” of the west and the South.
This would be something that the unionists could sell to their people, including the likes of Willie Frazer who I would suggest take more pleasure from seeing the British flag over the town hall in Newry on nineteen days than he would take from seeing the same flag over Belfast City Hall all year round.
This would also get the Alliance Party off the hook as they could proclaim that they set up the situation…they were the catalyst for it all. They would be rehabilitated as liberal unionists who are responsible for the British flag flying in all six counties.
But surely this would be unfair on nationalists. Well the liberal unionist/letsgetalongerism position is that nationalists need to face up to the “reality” that Norn Iron is part of the”uk” and that British and unionist symbols take precedence.
Obviously I oppose this so-called solution. I don’t necessarily think that it WILL happen. I merely suggest that it is on the agenda.