Twelfth July…Know Your Flags

Those Orange Order types certainly love their flags….not just their own.

One of the interesting things about sixty odd years of observing Twelfth July is how more and more flags have been adopted. Dr Dominic Bryan at QUB could write a book about this kinda thing. Actually he has written a few.

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Back in the 1960s, there was only the British Flag wich flew from a dwindling number of “Protestant” houses at the Grosvenor Road end of our “mixed” street in West Belfast. In the early 1960s, there was a cluster of them. By 1966, there was only three, guarded by a designated RUC man from nearby Cullingtree Road “barracks”. When the RUC closed the barracks, the flags stopped going up. Presumably the handful of Protestants (and thats how we described them in the 1960s) thought it would be better for their windows if they did not fly the British Flag in a street, now overwhelmingly Catholic (thats how we described ourselves in th 1960s).

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Of course in those days, public display of the Irish National Flag was illegal and if noticed, the RUC would remove it (as in the Divis Street Riots of 1964).

There was and IS no official flag for Norn Iron although a flag, I believe invented for a Coronation in 1953, was becoming increasingly accepted by Loyalists. Important to make the distinction between Unionists and Loyalists. Increasingly Unionists were “traditionalists” who still flew the British Flag around the Twelfth but Loyalists were more extreme, often supporters of fringe unionist parties like Vanguard, UDA etc which sprang up in the 1970s. A Norn Iron Flag with the British Flag in the canton was associated with Vanguard and a Scottish style saltire, red cross on blue with a red hand became associated with UDA. Actually Dominic Bryan from North London knows more about this than I (from West Belfast) know.

The subtle changes in Loyalist and Unionist politics can be mirrored in the range of Flags hanging from lamp posts and private houses since 1969. The Scottish Flag of course to emphasise Scottish roots as Orange Order discovered their Ulster Scots roots (which they had happily minimised in unionism for centuries), a special Tercentenary Flag for 1990 and curiously the Flag of Israel.

Why Israel? Well theres a crazier strand of Unionist-Protestant-Culture which thinks the they are the lost tribe of Israel. Any tribe of Israel that ends up in Ballymena, Portadown and Dervock….is very, very very lost. But there is also the political link …The descendants of British settlors who made the Ulster Desert grow can identify with those Israeli settlors who make the Judea Desert grow. The Irish and the Palestinians are after all terrorists and/or lesser people who do not accept that Ulster and Israel are gifts from GOD to HIS people.

In 2012, Flags commemorating the UVF (1912-2012) appeared. Dubiously these were claimed to represent the “legal” UVF rather than the “illegal” UVF from 1966 who butchered Catholics in the 1970s and 1980s …and several Protestants in the 1990s.

Of course FLYING flags is only one half of the Flags Issue. Burning flags….the Irish Flag has always been a part of Orange-Protestant-Unionist “culture” and no LetsGetAlongerist ever noticed this fine old tradition of hatred …burning Irish Flags, GAA Flags, Celtic Flags, Sinn Féin and SDLP Election posters …until the Flag of Poland and Alliance Party posters became part of the “culture”.

Thats the problem with LetsGetAlongerists….they tolerate SOME hatred….if it is directed against Catholics and Nationalists.

This year we have seen the Confederate Flag fly. Although I have seen it before in loyalist areas there is a degree of bandwagon jumping by loyalists. More have appeared this year and certainly more have been noticed because of the South Carolina tragedy last month. It is very sinister that one was flying outside the home of a black family in East Belfast.

Whatever the debate in the old American South about “History, Heritage and Hate” ….there can be no sense of “History and Heritage” about a Confederate Flag in Norn Iron. Sheer unadulterated Hatred. Likewise it is hard to see that a fondness for British military flags, notably the Parachute Regiment is part of some long-standing tradition…rather a gesture of support for a regiment, notorious for Bloody Sunday (1972) and other atrocities.

Of course there are connexions between Norn Iron loyalists and extreme right wing groups in Europe. But it apparently shocks LetsGetAlongerists that Nazi Flags (now removed) appeared in Carrickfergus, County Antrim….ironically alongside British national, British military and Confederate (still flying in Carrickfergus) flags.

Clearly the Orange Order distances itself from this and although I am not surprised to see Nazi Flags, displayed by loyalists, I think those responsible were merely trying to shock.

But increasingly the argument around Parity of Esteem as the Orange Order claims for its pathetic “culture” looks as threadbare as flags left out too long.

The Orange Order has opened a museum in East Belfast and invited the Media and Fantasy Media (bloggers) to come and visit. They call it “outreach”. They (perhaps) genuinely want people to understand their culture. Former Irish President, Mary McAlease has visited.

It would churlish of me to not recognise genuine attempts at …dare I say….”getting along”.

But really Orange “culture” is too closely tied to right wing extremism and hatred to be tolerated in any society claiming to be civilised.

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I’ll Tell NAMA When I Get Home…

The story so far?

NAMA …a Republic of Ireland “assets agency” set up in the aftermath of the Banking and Property collapse has a portfolio of properties, worldwide that it needs to sell off to recover money for the Irish Treasury.

Within Norn Iron, the portfolio was estimated to have a value of €4 billion dollars. And was sold off to an American company for €1.5 billion.

A major Norn Iron firm of Solicitors parted company with a senior executive earlier this year. He repaid €7 million to his former employer. The Law Society is informed.

A “maverick” member of the Irish Parliament suggests (with privelege) that part of the €7 million might have been intended for a leading Norn Iron politician.

Speculation arises as to the name of the politician. And a big name…is named. And his son. And a few other people, in and around Government.

Great Stuff!

The Finance Committee of the Norn Iron Assembly will investigate. But precedent suggests this will all be a bit partisan. The best we can hope for is some embarrassing performances of the “I have been advised not to answer ….” nature. And hopefully some MLAs will “abuse” Assembly privelege.

All good clean fun.

But…how long can the Stormont farce go on?

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Tall Ships …Tall Tales

We had the Tall Ships here in 2009. And they came back in 2015. They had the decency to only stay a weekend in this cess pit. They are now on the High Seas …Norway, I think is the next destination.

The Tall Ships is the showcase “Bread and Circus” event for 2015. Last year it was the start of the Giro’Italia Cycle Race. And 2013 was the World Police and Fire Service Games. And 2012 was the Titanic Centenary.

Derry (or Derry-Londonderry as I warned it would become) was “UK” (sic) City of Culture. The Roman Emperors usec to distract the citizens of Rome by giving them Bread and a Circus, Keep the population well fed and entertain them and nobody will notice the sleaze and corruption at the heart of it all.

The Tourist Board, and the Norn Iron Government and a compliant Media believe that if we are given enough Bread and Circus, nobody will notice that Norn Iron is a sectarian and corrupt cess pit. Indeed Norn Iron is a bit like “Game of Thrones”, another Bread and Circus event.

Thus…we can have Tall Ships in Belfast Dockyards while elsewhere in Titanic-land a Confederate Flag was being hoisted on a lamp post outside the home of a black family. The PSNI brand it a “hate crime” and rush off to talk to “community activists” (code for loyalist paramilitary killers) to negotiate ots removal. Actually it was removed by the coach of a football club, for whom the black house-holder plays.

So the LetsGetAlongerists tell us that Tall Ships is the real Norn Iron and turn a blind eye to the naked sectarianism and racism which plagues Norn Iron at this time of the year.

Heritage or Hate? There is a debate to be had in South Carolina about different interpretations of display of the Confederate Battle Flag. There can be no debate in East Belfast….it is racist.

The year 2016….the Centenary of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme will be a bumper year for LetsGetLongerism as the usual suspects tell us about our “shared History”. It is all a contrived sham. There can be no parity of esteem between Decent values and Obscene values.

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Exposing Children To Hatred

It is of course a terrible thing that a man and his young child are waving ISIL flags in central London. People are rightly outraged.

But that is London …and it could never happen here….in Belfast, Carrickfergus, Lisburn and Portadown. But later this week some very young children will be exposed to marching “Kick The Pope” flute bands, having learned the words of anti-Catholic songs at a bonfire where the National Flag of Ireland burns alongside symbols of Catholicism.

A reasonable person might think this is Hatred. Alas …this is Orange “Culture”, which we are obliged to recognise as a legitimate expression of Unionist and Protestant Identity.

BBC will as always cover the Twelfth Parade in Belfast. They might well be embarrassed about it but cowardice in the face of the outrage which would be expressed by DUP and UUP politicians means that the BBC is locked into it for ever. They have covered the Twelfth “live” for sixty odd years. The BBC just cant say “no”.

And on the Twelfth Night, BBC and UTV will have happy reports from all of the parades and in fairness, some will be happy rural occasions. And we will be told heart-warming stories from the various “Fields”. Billy McBilly is 97 years old and attending his 90th consecutive Twelfth in Bally-Go-Backwards in County Tyrone. Good old Billy. Meanwhile Carson Carson from Toronto, Canada is attending his first Twelfth in Buck Eejit Ville in County Antrim.

No Sectarianism in evidence of course. Just happy smiley faces as wee kids enjoy their ice cream.

Yes…exposing children to Hatred is a very bad thing. BBC and UTV would never encourage such a thing.

Meanwhile, I appear to be the only Blogger in Norn Iron, who has not been given a personal tour of the Orange Museum in Belfast. You can read the fawning reviews or is it serious critique on….er Slugger O’Toole.

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Remember The Alamo

It is now over two years since I was in San Antonio, Texas. The surprise about The Alamo is that an entire city is built around it. Whatever the politics of 1836, it is impressive.

The first thing to notice is the place of honour for the flags of the birthplaces of the Alamo defenders.

image The Irish Flag is just to the left as you go thru the front door. Along with Wales, England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland.

Curiously there is no “British” Flag. And no “Norn Iron” Flag…which must disappoint all those Orangemen and their “Ulster Scot” crap.

Even more curiously, the Irishmen at the Alamo would never have seen or even heard of the Flag that Thomas F Meagher did not unveil until 1848.

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Keeping An Eye On The Czar Of ….Belgium

I have been worried about the Czar of Russia so much that I took to blogging about him in 2011…almost four years ago. I think I over-estimated him. He has not done anything since 1917.

I should probably stop keeping an eye on him and start looking at the bastards in the so-called European Union. I have never much cared for it…in any of its guises. Perhaps its saving grace is that the people who oppose it …Nigel Farage and UKIP for example….are even worse.

But we now have a very obvious Federal Europe, imposing its will on the sovreign states of Europe. Of course, you may say that there is no such thing as “sovreignty” in 2015. Perhaps. But I dont think that if the real European “project” had been spelled out to Europes voters, they would have voted so enthusiastically for an undemocratic federal Europe.

There is an irony. People I think might respect Europe but nobody actually loves it. Europe will never win the Football World Cup…Germans would much prefer if Germany won it. No European anthem will ever be played and no European anthem played as an Italian athlete, French judo player, Polish triathlete and Irish boxer wins Gold at the Olympic Games.

A United Europe? Who would actually die for Europe? And yet in this Decade of Centenaries, people died for Germany, Austria, Italy, France….as well as Ireland.

Ah 1916. Is it relevant to this? I think so. The nationalist-unionist debate in the early 1900s was about the Emotional Appeal of an Irish Nation against the Economicc Benefit of a British Empire.

What did Ireland do in 1916-22? Kick out the British to bring in the Belgians?

Is that how our young people think in 2015. That being Irish is little more than Emotion stacked against being a small part of a massive trading block…ruled undemocratically from the Centre…in this case Brussels.

London and Brussels. Thats how it was and thats how it is. That is our context.

Of course the Greeks dont see it that  way. They dont see a parallel witn the British Empire. The more obvious parallel is with 1939-1945. …..oh dear I mentioned the War but I dont think I got away with it. A United Europe? Charlemagne, Napolean Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler…Angela Merkel.

The Greeks yesterday chose between Emotion and Pocket Book/Wallet. The choice made easier because the Pocket Books are empty and would remain empty whether they voted YES or NO in the Referendum. Simple enough….die on your knees or die on your feet.

They made the right choice.

But Frau Merkel wont like it. “Europe” (thats you and me folks) wants regime change in Greece. Unashamedly, thats what they are saying. This is how Europe has changed from the 1970s when democratic Common Market fast-tracked Greece into membership to encourage Greek Democracy after the years of right-wing military dictatorship.

In 2015….who are the Democrats? Who are the Dictators? Who  are the Fascists?

Human Rights? Maybe Amnesty is already preparing its “Je Suis Greek” placards to demonstrate at Belfast City Hall? More likely….not.

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Val Doonican RIP….He Rocked But Gently

Saddened to hear of the death of Val Doonican today. He was 88 years old. He has been retired for a number of years but he was a major star from the 1960s to the 1980s.

He was from Waterford but moved to London around 1960. His first hit was “Walk Tall” circa 1964, basically a “country” song. He followed that up with a number of other hits, including “The Special Years”, “Elusive Butterfly” and “If The Whole World Stopped Lovin'” and he was a regular fixture in the LP charts with his brand of easy listening songs. One album was entitled “Val Doonican Rocks…But Gently”.

The words “overnight success at 38″ were usually applied to him but in fact, he was a regular BBC radio performer as a soloist with (but not of) The George Mitchell Singers. Indeed on YouTube you can find an album “The Blue and the Grey” of American Civil War songs. val Doonican is a soloist.

But rather than the hot records, he would be best remembered as a star of Saturday night variety, having his own TV show thru to the mid 1980s. A Golden Age of Variety, that included Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Mike Yarwood, Morcambe and Wise and er….Rolf Harris.

And also remembered for his trademark rocking chair, on which he performed at least one ballad. And of course, the sweaters and the cardigans. And no show was complete without a humourous ???? Irish songs like “Paddy McGinty’s Goat” and “Delaney’s Donkey”

I am not sure what to make of his legacy. Some  things strike me. He performed on TV when there were only three TV channels available and we would have watched just about anything. This explains “The Generation Game”, “Cannon and Ball” and “Little and Large”.

I suppose he exuded some Irish charm and despite the “Irish” songs, he never became “Oirish” in the stereotypical show biz style. He was an antidote to the negative stereotyping of the “Irish joke”. He was very “BBC”, “very Establishment” and the worst aspect of his show was his “show business mates” like Harry Secombe, Cilla Black, Arthur Askey, who were always guaranteed a guest spot in every season. On the plus side, he did promote genuine talent such as Tom Paxton.

He was very much part of the showbiz aristocracy in South East England.

If he achieved anything, it might have been to present a positive image of Ireland to British audiences on for several seasons during dark days when the British TV audience was seeing daily images of horror in Belfast, Derry….and indeed London and Birmingham.

But there is a certain compromise involved. Eamonn Andrews from the 1950s to the 1970s was the acceptable face of Irishness on British TV. Likewise “Sir” Terry Wogan. And Val Doonican was part of that kinda Irishness…Obviously Irish but without any threat. Arguably Andrews was an Irish nationalist and his career pre-dated The Troubles.

Likewise Graham Norton is heir to Terry Wogan. And maybe Dara O’Briain is accepted because like Andrews, his career began as The Troubles ended.

It is an old story of “big fish” (Andrews, Doonican, Wogan, Norton, O’Briain) being too big for a “small pond” (Ireland) and to succeed in the “big pond” (England) means compromising on some aspects of Irishness.

Can anyone seriously doubt that Graham Norton will become a knight of the Greater England realm. Andrews never accepted an honour. Maybe O’Briain would lose street cred if he accepted an honour.

I suppose I could look up Wikipedia to find out if Val Doonican has a MBE  or OBE. I dont think it matters any more than finding out that a nurse born in Waterford, eighty years ago has a MBE or OBE for moving to London and working in the National Health Service for fifty odd years.

Val Doonican….RIP.

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