Friday, 2 August 2013

The Ulster Flag (Banner)

In the interests of clearing up a matter which has stung quite a few people either on here, on other sites or indeed in face to face conversation I have decided to post on a topic that is quite dear to many people (and to do so in the first person, no humble narrator today).

The topic in question is what is perceived to be my own personal crusade against the Ulster Banner, better thought of by many as the flag of Northern Ireland.

Like many Protestants in Northern Ireland I had one on my bedroom wall as a teenager as well as some smaller ones which adorned key rings, hats or what ever paraphernalia I may have had at the time.

I certainly loved to see it fluttering from lamp posts (back then I didn't see this as tribal or territorial statements, more of a display of patriotism) and to see it at Windsor Park or just in wherever Northern Ireland may be playing.
Hair tingling

I would take one with me on holiday along with other flags and I have a clear recollection of waving the flag excitedly to a group of befuddled English high school pupils in Belgium ( I was in high school at the time too lest there be any alarm).

So, how did I go from being a 'lover' to a 'hater'?

Well, I didn't.

I don't hate the flag at all, it is still for me something uniquely 'Norn Iron'.

However, after years of watching Unionist politicians fumble from one disaster to another, play to the gallery and work the crowd again & again I started looking at things a bit more analytically and (I hope) logically.

With this new found openness, I was informed in every official capacity that I came across that the flag that I took to be 'my' flag was in fact NOT.

The Ulster Banner was made redundant in the early 70's with Stormont.

I made enquiries and was informed (twice) by the Northern Ireland Office (Her Majesty's Government's representatives in Northern Ireland) that this was the case.

Now, I was going to scan the letter and post it here but realistically I could quite easily have just typed up my own later, printed that off and scanned it in a feeble attempt to fool everyone so no one would see it as proof any way.

So, here is the address of the people in the know.
Don't take my word for it.
Email them or write to them yourself:

Northern Ireland Office
Stormont House
Stormont Estate

Although, they did also reply to an email of mine:

"Thank you for your enquiry.

The Official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Flag, this is the only official flag used.
NI has not had it's own unique flag since 1972 when the NI Government and Parliament were prorogued.
NIO Web Team "

Again, ask them yourself, NIO:

A nay-sayer told me that the NIO wouldn't know their flags from their elbows and that Stormont decides such things as that is the work of the NI Executive, our attempt at a 'government'.

So I asked there and they said:
"Guidance and regulations surrounding the flag of Northern Ireland does indeed come from the NI Office and not from the NI Assembly."

So, if you'd like to ask them, Stormont:

Apparently we don't have our own flag and as such we 'default' (is that right? please correct if you're less ignorant than I) to the Union Flag.

This was made public knowledge by none other than TUV leader Jim Allister regarding the topic of the Union Flag:
From Jim himself

And to a lesser extent:

A Union Flag instead of a Northern Ireland flag?

Even the BBC are of the opinion that the Ulster Flag has no legal status:

Here's a summary of the above link:

Even Auntie says so

There are other sites too, but it is the internet after all, so discretion is advised:
etc. etc.
There's a plethora of such sites.

So, my position is simply one of logic: We have no flag to call our own.

This coupled with the Unionist strategy for survival rather than a strategy of at least attempting some sort of unionist expansion (why not at least try to make Northern Ireland an appealing place for Catholics? We only need a fraction of their vote for Northern Ireland to withstand a border poll) puts Northern Ireland's very existence at stake.

There was much gloating and rejoicing after 'that poll' by the Spotlight program that declared that a fair whack of Sinn Fein voters would vote to remain in the Union given the choice in a border poll.

If people truly believe this, then how can they logically believe that ALL Catholics are to a man unequivocally opposed to anything Northern Irish or any symbols that represent it?

If you found yourself laughing, jeering or even just believing that the spotlight poll was even half accurate then you've automatically surrendered any right to think that a new Northern Ireland flag would be treated with hostility by ALL of Northern Ireland's Catholics.
"Themuns want to remain in the UK! But are so anti-Union that they'll never accept our Northern Ireland flag!"????

Untainted flag?

It is not lost on me that should Northern Ireland have a flag of its own that Catholics will not come running over the horizon to embrace the new cloth.

This is not what I am arguing.

Nor is it lost on me that Windsor park will become a much more welcoming place to Catholics without a flag that they PERCEIVE as a loyalist flag being flown so wantonly.
If Catholics start to support Northern Ireland then what do we have to fear with regards to Northern Ireland's survival?

A new flag won't change everything but its a great place to start 'The Change'.

So what now?

Well, we can limp on as we are now, with an unofficial flag with a controversial image which is off-putting to 1/2 of Northern Ireland's population or as hard as it may be come up with an alternative.

Here's a few ideas from a few different people:

I strongly recommend this site for info and ideas:

Like I say, I welcome corrections, I can't preach against ignorance and then deny it when it applies to me.

As for the flags, well, over to you.


  1. Have you ever wondered why you (and nobody else for that matter) never made an issue of this in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, and why during that period that absolutely every atlas or encyclopaedia simply stated this as the flag of Northern Ireland? During that period there were no regional assemblies across the UK, yet the flag of Scotland was the saltire (no Assembly then), Wales the dragon (no Assembly) and England St. George's Cross (still no assembly today), as well as there being numerous other flags used in English regions (again, no Assembly). Flags, particularly in such UK contexts, were simply defined on a de facto and no de jure basis based on common civil use, and to this day the Union Jack actually is merely the de facto flag of the UK. The idea therefore that the closure of Stormont in 1973 would somehow null and void our flag is nonsense, especially given that the civil, sporting (Commonwealth Games, including recent coins with Ulster flag by the Royal Mint) and council use continues to this day, and has not been replaced.

  2. So what exactly has changed things where we see many double-standard posts telling us that somehow Stormont's closure in 1973 magically eradicated our flag, even though the same standards don't apply to other parts of the UK?

    Well, firstly we had a new Assembly introduced, one which for the sake of appeasing terrorists shunned democracy and therefore is little more than a talking shop incapable of decision making. Peter Mandelson wanted to do David Trimble a favour for agreeing to the whole farce and as said Assembly is not going to agree any decisions of its own on important issues (never mind what bit of cloth to be flying) he simply mandated the Union Jack on a few days a year on the buildings which reentered use (buildings which probably only ever flew the Union Jack in the first place). This has absolutely nothing to do with the local Northern Ireland flag or its status, as the issue has never been discussed.

    Another recent advent is Wikipedia, the "encyclopaedia that anyone can use to write any lot of distorted shite they like". Unlike any normal encyclopaedia written by well educated and civilised researchers striving for objectivity, any old nonsense and inconsistent double standards can end up here so became a favourite for soap-dodging Republican keyboard-warriors seeing it as the next phase of their "struggle" against endless oppression by the big bad Brits. Around 2005, and ongoing, Republican keyboard warriors with no lives have managed to essentially eradicate anything positive about Northern Ireland on this online graffiti wall, distort any facts added by others with more noble aims and naive dispositions, portray their "volunteers" as the glorious freedom fighters they are, and essentially censor any display of Northern Ireland identity. In the case of the NI flag, their logic is that if a flag is defined as "official" in the constitution of the RoI then all flags in other countries must be defined this way (except of course for the flags of four-green-fields Irish Nationalism, for example, which must go without question and are plastered prominently, or the tricolour which must of course be titled the "Flag of Ireland" without question).

    The problem with Wikipedia of course is that it can be quite good for many scientific articles or trivia (things where there is little motivation for non-objectivity) and so ends up getting to the top of Google search results even for dubious political search results. The advent of the internet has meant that even incompetent people can pretend to be experts on anything, and means journalists can get away with being lazy. Lazy journalists, such as those who did the BBC piece you linked to essentially did a copy and paste job on Wikipedia (a clear giveaway is the term "Ulster Banner" which no one had ever heard of before then). The BBC then go a so-called "expert" in the form of a young Englishman from QUB -- if alarm bells aren't ringing already, then they should be in the BBC video whereby we see this English "expert" sitting by his computer, reading.... Wikipedia!

    You then go and say that you wrote to the Northern Ireland office, but any such response from here is meaningless without considering who was replying to you, what knowledge they had, or how they came up with said information. The person with the unfortunate job of having to deal with your time-wasting letters is going to be some poor low-ranking secretary or another as those of importance and power aren't going to waste their time with this nonsense and simply delegate it away. So what did they do -- well exactly the same as what most people with such an unwanted job would do and type a few terms into Google and reply to you with what they have found. How do I know this? Well, "NI has not had it's own unique flag since 1972 when the NI Government and Parliament were prorogued." is word-for-word an exact copy of a sentence from Wikipedia!

  3. Part 1
    Hello Paddy

    First of all thank you for effectively reinforcing my point of view.
    Your rebuttal boils down to the age old formula of legal obscurity and rubbishing the credibility of those whom disagree with you.

    Going by what you tell me, Wales and Scotland have their own assemblies and through whatever machinations that maybe required they now have official status for their flags? (By that token I will perhaps concede that England therefore doesn't but the St George's flag is hardly as controversial as the Ulster flag).

    Yet now, Northern Ireland now with its own assembly still hasn't made the necessary legislative leap to do the same with Northern Ireland, ergo, my point about Northern Ireland not having an official flag whilst other UK nations/states/whatever do is still valid, all the more so since your contribution.

    WRT Wikipedia, I'm well aware that there's no quicker way to hobble one's argument than by citing Wikipedia, hence you never see me refer to it.

    The fact that the email I received was a lazy cut 'n' paste job merely opens a chicken-egg debate on the matter i.e. did the site from which they copied the information (as there are many which share with wikipedia) extract the information from the Republican-propagandist-infiltrated-Wikipedia or did the Republican propagandists copy said piece from another site whilst they were working to bias the view on Wikipedia?

    It may disappoint you to learn that at Queen's Belfast there is at least one senior (Unionist too) lecturer in the Political history studies dept who uses Wikipedia as his first port of call when looking for nuggets on line, so to rubbish the BBC's man for having the gall to have it on his computer is a tad harsh.

    As such, I also received a letter from the NIO, I'm glad I didn't scan it onto the blog as it appears I saved the civil servant who took the time to write to me from some sort of character assassination by your hand.

    With regards to the Ulster 'Banner' I only included it after previous battles with pedants who got quite uppity about not calling it by that title.

    So, as the BBC, their choice of academics, the internet, the NIO and Stormont are not to be trusted with such a matter could you please then state whose authority is beyond reproach on the matter?

    With whom does the proverbial buck stop?

    I noticed Jim Allister didn't come under the same untrustworthy bracket.

  4. Part 2

    As for it not being an issue till now, well, as you pointed out we now DO have an assembly and yet still no flag for Northern Ireland.

    That is why there is a fuss from people such as myself.

    Were Stormont to get on the case and re-install the Ulster Flag then I'd certainly stop.

    Personally I'd view that as a gift to Republicans as they understand better than most Unionists how the flag is perceived within the Nationalist community in general i.e. very poorly.

    So to associate NI with a non-favourable (or some would claim 'offensive' given its embrace by Loyalism) flag would be a PR shot in the arm for Republicanism.

    That, I would imagine is why there is no discernible campaign nor pressure from the Republican camp to have the flag 'changed'.

    Officially they have their anti-NI stance and should principally speaking not bother with the matter, but if it displeases them so much and is a threat then why is it not their radar?
    Would you not say that they relinquish their principles when there is something in it for them?

    We all know that if Republicans want something changed they chip away at it relentlessly.
    Is it not odd then that the same pressure is not being applied to the Ulster flag?

    That band parades, Union Flags, Armed Forces marches and public signage all come under the Republican thumbscrew but the Ulster Flag (a symbol of that which they hate, the existence of NI) escapes almost scott free save the odd criticism here and there?

    Strange no?


    It was similar with Ian Paisley and the wonders he did for Republican recruitment, hence there were no IRA attempts on his life (or at least none that I can think of the top of my head).
    Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

    I can only speculate that this tolerance would change should the campaign to change the flag gather any momentum because, as we all know, there is no better way to discredit something in the eyes of Unionists than for the object in question to be lobbied for by Sinn Fein.

    So watch this space...

  5. I'm surprise this blog needs posting. I'd have thought there'd be very few who still believes the Ulster Banner has official status. Most everybody i talk to about it knows this (we get this fact thrown in our faces often enough in the last few years not to!). Following on from paddyd's point, i don't believe the nine county Ulster flag has any legal or official standing anywhere on the island either but does that make it's representation of the province any less relevant?

    You say: "If you found yourself laughing, jeering or even just believing that the spotlight poll was even half accurate then you've automatically surrendered any right to think that a new Northern Ireland flag would be treated with hostility by ALL of Northern Ireland's Catholics.". Surely by the same reasoning you can't claim that the NI flag is offensive to ALL NI's Catholics? I know two guys where i work whom are catholics and have no problem with it. Obviously they are in a minority but they are not alone.

    I understand your point though. Any flag abused by hardliners, jingoists or paramilitaries is going to lose it's appeal to other groups. By the same token many loyalists and a lot of unionists see the Republic's tricolour as an IRA flag. I guess they wouldn't be too far wrong seeing as it was given officialdom by those connected directly or indirectly with the IRA in 1919. It was and continues to be championed by the violent republican paramilitaries in whatever guise as the flag for the entire island. Anyone who made a serious attempt to have the Republic's flag replaced due to it being offensive to unionism would be rejected outright in my opinion.

    On a final point. Why would SF attempt to have the flag changed if it doesn't have any official standing? How can you 'change' it if it doesn't legally exist in the first place? Do you doubt for a minute that they wouldn't do such a thing if the Ulster Banner were official?

  6. I think it will be extremely difficult to get all around agreement. I think the best chance would be the old flag with the crown removed from above the red hand. Perhaps just a white background with the red hand, getting rid of the 6 pointed star.

  7. Hello again Citizen!

    I'm afraid, with regards to obtaining official flag for this country, it's really a moot point the status of the 9 county shield, it's seldom used on an international level to represent a country.
    A Province I would think is a different matter but I'll have to hold up my hands to ignorance on that one I'm afraid.

    You speak absolutely logically with regards to your point about not all Catholics having a problem with it.

    As we both know sadly too many are and that I'm afraid is a clincher for me, I want Northern Ireland to be welcoming to Northern Ireland, not just half and a a few exceptions of the Catholic community.

    I know fine and well how many Unionists feel about the tricolour, hence my last post (though it was a lengthy one).

    Over in they had quite a good topic regarding it:

    You have me on a technicality on your final point.

    What I was alluding to is that I don't believe that they're bothered about it so much.

    No doubt they might kick up a fuss if there were an attempt to make it the official flag (it does have the crown on it) but, from their point of view it's surely great that those whom support the country that they'd love to get rid of use a flag that most of their community find offensive.

    It's a PR gift.

    I could be reading the Republican mind incorrectly but I fail to see how they lose anything by us clinging onto a flag that has been discredited in the eyes of many in the Catholic community.

    I would love to find a study (if there is one) on how Catholic Unionists feel about the Ulster flag.

    Like I say man, don't interpret this as a petty fatwa, I see it as a logical path for improving our lot in Northern Ireland.

    I'll not be popular by presenting this points but I'm prepared to roll with the punches on this one.

    I support Northern Ireland, not just half of it.

  8. "I think it will be extremely difficult to get all around agreement"

    Spot on Mr Joe, even by Northern Ireland's standards it's a difficult one.

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