Friday, 29 November 2013

Three Flags; a Real Compromise?

noun: compromise; plural noun: compromises
  1. 1.
    an agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

This is pretty much a rehash of an earlier blog, only without the ‘frilly bits’.

Those who have stumbled across my rants over on may well think me obsessed on the topic of flegs.

Though, to be fair, many people from NI are guilty of this too methinks.
Jamie and Willie: Like flegs

The hot potato of the year is of course the Union Flag flying (or not flying) from Belfast city hall.

After a year of reading the contributions, points and feelings of nationalist and republican commentators on Sluggerotoole, I have to say that I’ve come to see things differently than before.

I now (belatedly) accept their grievances about not feeling represented in their own city or land given that they have little or no affection for the Union Flag.

So, in the interests of keeping the peace, live & let live, equality and even letsgetalongerism I admit that this imbalance needs to be addressed.

“Equality, equality, equality “are the buzzwords of choice to galvanise arguments for addressing the matter.

I heartily agree.

As long as ‘equality’ isn’t something that can be surgically altered to fit a particular agenda.

I think everyone should be represented.

I also agree that we want the communities to have more respect for each other.

Which is why I can’t agree to the idea of flying the Tricolour and the Union Flag side by side.

It is too divisive.

Optimists may view it as progress, as a sign of two communities finally coming to terms with each other.

I view it as potentially toxic.

It says to me (and I’m a wishy washy middle of the road liberal) “CHOOSE!”.

There are those with the strength of character and integrity to see the very best aspects of this solution but there are many more who don’t.

And I’m not even talking about the likes of Willie Frazer or Jamie Bryson.

For decades we’ve seen these flags used as territorial markers.

For decades we’ve come to see the flags in terms of ‘themuns and oursuns’.

The hullaballoo surrounding last year’s flegger-geddon only compounded this.

Simply put, having the two flags flying alongside each other will simply be viewed as a constant declaration of “this one is for us lot and that one is for themuns”.

Hardly the stuff to heal wounds or allay suspicions and paranoia.

Also, it goes without saying that many unionists will view it as another ‘victory’ for Republicanism.

Which is why (predictably) I still stand by my proposal for flying three flags instead of one or two;              
1/ The Tricolour (for nationalists and republicans)
2/ The Union Flag (for 'bothered' unionists and 'British nationalists')
3/ A new Northern Ireland flag (for everyone who falls somewhere in between the two aforementioned poles)

I’ve aired this on Slugger a few times to test the water and whilst it hasn’t been taken into the bosom of many it has (more importantly) been neither convincingly mauled nor shot down, which, in slugger terms, I consider to be a victory.

There are many articulate people on there and I have been influenced by their arguments and points.

So for the notion to survive (or in one case actually be endorsed by a republican) is for me very encouraging.

The only attack on the proposal was an articulately dressed-up version of the ‘themuns have two flegs’ argument.

I acknowledged this potential argument when I proposed the scheme.

I also acknowledged that an equal amount of indignation would surface in the other camp at the very notion of a ‘foreign’ flag flying from city hall.

Sorry ladies and gents, but that’s compromise.

You might not particularly like the final result but you’re better off than before, in this particular case:   
 1/ Republicans and nationalists will have their flag flying and will thus be represented                                         
  2/ Unionists & British nationalists will have their flag flying (which is currently not the case in many nationalist council areas).
3/ Northern Irelanders, middle-of-the-roaders and such like will now have a flag to call their own and will be relieved at not being pigeonholed into either of the other two camps.

All sides advance.

All sides gain.

If you perceive your objective to be soured because ‘themuns’ have also got something out of the compromise then perhaps you should take stock of yourself and decide whether you really do want to live in proper peace or do you actually want peace only at the expense of others?

Having a third flag, a Northern Ireland flag, will potentially fill the void for those who aren’t particularly enthralled at the idea of either the Tricolour or Union Flag.

Growing apathy is an oft mentioned state of affairs in NI.

Many people just don’t have strong feelings of affection for the two main flags given how much they’ve been debased over the decades by hardliners on either side.

So to have such a binary choice available is rather a rather galling prospect for many people.

A new Northern Ireland flag will give them something to opt for (if they want to, keeping in mind the apathetic aspect mentioned before…)

Going back to the equality argument, it’s fair that the ‘British’ are represented, it’s fair that the ‘Irish’ are represented so surely it’s fair that the Northern Irish are represented too?

To use the argument of equality is to advocate this position by default.

They go hand in hand.

It cannot be simply used for the Tricolour and then immediately dumped because other people want to be represented too.

If one wishes to further the cause of equality then that opens the door to a Northern Ireland flag for those who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the opposing (?) Irish & British stances.

No ifs, no buts, if it’s in the name of equality then others have the right to be represented too, not just the two ‘main’ groups.

Equality: Has it's uses sometimes...
A new Northern Ireland flag may be unpalatable to some nationalists (and many unionists!) but ditto the Tricolour with unionists.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Also, this distaste for a NI flag is of secondary consideration to the primary objectives of equality and flying the tricolour.

These objectives have been stated too many times for any fickle back-peddling:
“Sinn Féin wants to see a City Hall that is inclusive and welcoming to every citizen and every tradition"

If we want equality then it must be real equality, not another demarcation point to further divide people.

Three groups, three flags.

Not a great deal to ask.



The thought occurs that in order to get around this pesky inconvenience there will undoubtedly be an attempt to move the goalposts .                
                                                                                                                                                                                 I’d be curious to see which tactic will be employed, will it be redefine ‘equality’ or deny the existence of the ‘Northern Irish’ or even playing with statistics.

If the idea ever gains traction it’ll be interesting to see what angle the naysayers will take. Watch this space folks.


  1. Thanks for this. At last someone is talking a bit of sense! Personally I don't identify with any flag and i see this as a positive step in the right direction rather than all the marching on the spot which has been happening. My late dad used to say if you're not moving forward you must be standing still. We've stood still for too long time to really move on.

  2. The problem being it ignores the constitutional position of Northern Ireland as being part of the UK. The compromise is actually in my mind an agreed Northern Ireland flag flown everywhere & designated days for the Union Flag

    1. Hello Kilsally!

      I'm delighted that you're reading one of my posts as I'd really appreciate your opinions on some of my Ulster-Scots/Scotch-Irish stuff, especially as we're both Mid-Ulster Scotophiles (aren't we?)

      Anyway, the point of this proposal is that it is an alternative to the TWO flag idea which is slowly but surely gaining traction.

      Any constitutional hurdles to jump will have to be jumped by that proposal first.

      If it is successful then it automatically paves the way for this proposal.

      BTW, with an NI & Union Flag idea, what's in it for nationalists and republicans?

      What do they stand to gain from that proposal?

  3. Nice idea but never going to work. Firstly I will be amazed if everyone was to agree on a new flag. The 3 flag option involves a Tricolour being flown which will never be agreed on by Unionism so that in my view leaves us with the option of no flags or each individual councils civic flag. The Belfast civic flag is better than any of the makey up suggestions I have seen for Northern Ireland over the last few days and talking of those designs I have seen in the various newspapers they either look nationalist, unionist, completely irrelevant or just downright awfull even the better options and one I like myself such as a red saltire on a green background will be divisive sure isnt green Irish but isnt that St Patricks cross a British symbol etc etc etc

  4. I hear ya Boondock.

    Though, I can't see how a tricolour won't fly from city hall some day.

    King Cnute knew he couldn't hold back the tide.
    Unionism sees the tide coming in but won't do anything about it other than cry "no surrender" and end up startled when it receives a good soaking.

    If they had any foresight they could maybe grasp this idea as a way of breaking the fall.

    But, wishful thinking I suppose.

  5. AG,

    I think the "new NI" fleg thing is non-starter.

    Haass honestly has much more pressing matters to attend to.

    You can maybe see Haass's perspective though - "man from melting-pot identity country with one flag says why can't all you different people have one flag/fleg [delete as appropriate to your education] like 'old-glory' and get along like good chaps then?"

    It's kind of a no-brainer for him. However it just won't work here.

    I get it and accept it that people from the northern regions of Ireland can hold, have and express different identity concepts Irish/British/Norn Irish/all-or-one-whenever-it-suits. Tick. Get it. That is reality. However given that large spread of self-identifying concepts it is difficult to find a unifying identity to sling a flag over.

    Given that difficulty of throwing A flag over the body of the population, you are left with trying to throw it over the region/statelet/province [call it what you will]. However the latter is ALSO contested ground. Hence another roadblock.

    The more pressing issues need sorted first.

    1. It'll be difficult FDM, no doubt about that.

      Haass does indeed have other stuff to attend to but there's no reason not to press ahead for a fleg.

      Certainly won't fix everything (probably trigger more protests) but it'll at least give us something to fly at sporting events other than the redundant flag that has been raped by Loyalism for decades.

      On the other hand, what will I blog about?!!!!

  6. No fleg at all is the most sensible solution, how can anyone be offended by naffin

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  8. At the risk of sounding like a really mean "ditto" and not "dido", don't you?
    Flags of any stripe have been used in their tattered remnants as territorial markers like so many incontinent dogs' pissings, that they've been devalued long ago..The average nationalist housewife reading "Hello" magazine with it's royal/celebrity coverage would have more of a sense of "loyalty" to the monarchy than some of the more rabid shit-stirrers brutalising themselves on the streets, who want to be more british than the average Yorkshireman, currently prefers.
    I wonder what the reaction would be if the queen or possibly Charles chirped up and laid out the truth of their supposed "loyalty" and the desecration of the british national flag. Super Nationalists could also be taken to task on this score but not to the same degree.
    Here,,uninformed histories have been twisted into legends in much the same way that" facts" are written by the victors throughout the ages and all kingly and political power is essentially born out of theft and murder.Fairy tales are believed about King Billy as a child believes in the Coca Cola version of Santa Claus.
    Flags should be an irrelevance to anyone who can, think, but in a land where someone who has no education of science can become a Health Minister while believing in Creationism.....never mind gods and demons, it is obvious that although some of us are in the 21st century, a lot of our neighbours still reside in a dangerous inner world of witches, ghosts,, fairies and whatnots of the imagination and are in thrall to murderous paranoia and pieces of cloth.Possibly many of them have never lived or visited either the south of Ireland or the cities of the U.K. except maybe at a football match. Many have probably never read a book before.
    The rest of us have lived through lifetimes of grubby mental and physical violence from all sides, where we've had to witness killings on the streets by both the citizens and the forces of "law". We've heard the ravings and rantings of hillbilly demagogues .We've seen friends from across the community murdered by one side or the other and watched as sociopaths were integrated into both legal and illegal organisations and then decorated and feted by their followers. We've heard the firecracker bangs of real guns as" lawmen" killed a drowsy husband making his tipsy way home.... and smelt the marzipan and vanilla aroma of freshly bombed buildings in our towns .We've also seen the hypocrisy of religious leaders and followers who spoke hate from both sides of their mouths at the same time.
    I think, no flags of any description should be flown in such a culturally un-integrated place .Put up flagpoles by all means but make it illegal to make , sell or buy any kind of flag until such times as everyone can understand their symbolism and value.They are currently used as psychological weapons.The can make the law stick with alcohol and tobacco. They should do the same with flag

  9. Yes I do, I've amended it, but all credit goes to yourself (to be fair, I'm reading the Aeneid, Dido is stuck in my head...)

  10. No problem.It's just one of things a grammar school education sometimes infects the user with.It also turns the internet and elsewhere into an alphabet zoo of free-ranging apostrophes, and feral "where",,"were" and "wear".. "chose" and "choose"...a vast jungle of spelling mistakes and rampant grammar to catch the eye like brightly coloured birds. My biggest problem is that my keyboard has taken to jumping bits of text and pasting them all over everything I type.!!!!,If anyone can help in that respect I would be grateful.

    1. Do you have a sensitive mouse on your computer?

      A friend of mine (a grammar enthusiast too oddly enough) has the same problem, his thumbs lazily glance against the mouse section of the keyboard and before you know it he's pasted have his text over the other half.

      Plug in a proper mouse and see if it's still happening.

      BTW, I welcome all corrections.



  11. The mouse is attached.I hate using the keypad.I've even downloaded a little programme which is supposed to freeze the keypad.I've googled for solutions but so far all the promises have come to nought.When I take my eye off the ball, the little bugger hops about spreading goobledegook across my text..

  12. I take your argument re two flags, AG, but rather than three the obvious path - as pointed out above - is no flag. Anyway, you can't eat one. I've tried.

  13. Thanks for your input Dr C, you're most welcome here.

  14. I think the 3 flag solution may be a runner actually. The posters above are right though, the tricolour is a non-starter due to being the sovereign symbol of the south. A new all-Ireland flag is therefore probably necessary too.

    I think this website has quite a politically realistic solution:
    Northern Ireland proposal
    Island of Ireland proposal

    A new Northern Ireland flag that is new but still gives a nod to enough existing NI heritage to keep Unionists on-board, yet changed from an England look-alike to use St. Patrick's cross for Ireland (and no crown). Combined with a dominantly green all-Ireland flag that Irish Nationalists can fly and also be used in the rugby etc. Both connected to each other by the commonality of the St. Patrick's Cross.