So, last night another 29 police officers were injured in clashes with unionist rioters over the astro-turf event known as the ‘flegs protest’ with many of us wondering when there will be an end in sight. Further, as I had noted previously, Belfast is now in the international news again but for all the wrong reasons. Well, it is even big news in Russia of all places and that’s a nation with a lot on its plate (NOTE, you will need Google Translate) which I caught this morning while having my coffee (it’s on SBS before midday), complete with pictures, video and it didn’t bother pulling any punches, nor should it.
It is still news here in Australia with ABC covering it extensively. I dug through their archives and found what I believe to be an insightful interview with Steven McCaffrey from the Detail back on December 14th, 2012 where he notes that the protest is about much more than the flag. His points are interesting especially in light of what has unfolded over the past few weeks, including the fact we did not see a more vocal defense from the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister from the outset, including when a death threat was made against Naomi Long, an MP at Westminster.
Meanwhile, the TD for Louth, Gerry Adams, has written a piece that has been published over at the Guardian and also on his own blog which is far more lengthy and detailed entitled ‘No Going Back‘ which I would largely agree with. His piece is quite simple, cogent and frank, one which many Nationalists have known for some time if you talk to anyone who works for or supports either the SDLP, SF or a whole panoply of Nationalist opinion:
‘The underlying ethos of the agreement is parity of esteem, mutual respect and equality. But there are those who fear change, and see equality for all citizens as a threat.
Equality is not about one side dominating the other – nor is it about anyone attacking what some describe as unionist culture. It is about nationalists and unionists, and others, living in a society in which decisions are taken democratically and peacefully. It is about tolerance and inclusivity – not hatred and bitterness. Symbols, including flags, can be divisive, but only if the debate is seen in its narrowest context.‘
Of course, we know that the compromise decision by BCC was not aimed at chipping away at unionist culture, after all, City Hall is coming down with ‘unionist’ (read British) symbols, but let’s not let a good riot and fascist, sectarian lawlessness stand in the way of that. Pandora’s box has been opened by Robbo and TV Mike with his questionable ‘hair’ and they are drowning in the aftermath of it all.
So, is the North facing some moment of time like say in 1969 or earlier, like during the period post 1916? Personally, I don’t see it, however, many believe we are at something of a cross roads and believe the whole facade may fall apart under the weight of its own contradictions. I wonder though, what would replace it as this may be less palatable for many, better the devil we know. What if we have joint authority imposed instead of local rule? What happens if SF is in government in the South when this happens, thus making a mockery of keeping them out of ruling the North? That’s why I don’t see a real alternative to the parties in the North working these matters out amongst themselves.
Getting back to the matter at hand (it’s all about FLEGS!!!) and where we go from here, with the the census results out showing that less than 50% of people self identifying as British in the North, what should we expect as some kind of a solution?
‘The decision taken by Belfast city council is part of this (Belfast being a shared city). It was a compromise position, democratically arrived at. Sinn Féin wanted either no flags, or equality of symbols (emphasis added) with both the union flag and tricolour flying side by side. Sinn Féin councillors supported the compromise position of the union flag being flown on a set number of designated days a year. This compromise was based on flags legislation brought forward by the British government and which unionist leaders at the time recommended.‘
With the changing demographics in the North and in Belfast in particular, I wonder what happens when Belfast is a Nat controlled city, that means that unionism is confined to hinterlands in North Armagh (dwindling), North Down, most of Antrim and East Derry, what bearing will this have on it’s politicians and politics in general? Will unionists realise that it has to start making compromises with Nats on these issues or will it circle the wagons and become ever more like the Tea Party in the States, saying No to everything and trying to fight the oncoming tide? Will they be honest with their own grass roots about what is happening and what to expect or will it just use the same plays it has for decades past?
We know what is going to happen in the North, it is called parity of esteem and it has been the case at council level for some time now. Nats have been at ease with this compromise now for some while, years in fact, in my opinion unionists may get used to this idea and come to the table or else it will be imposed at every and any opportunity that presents itself by Nat pols.