Sunday, June 17, 2007


SDLP engaging in flag-flying foolery

I was disappointed to hear the SDLP making a big fuss over something which I personally felt was nowhere close to being a major issue - the flying of a union jack at a World War I Veterans' Day parade in Limavady.

Councillor Gerry Mullan of the SDLP is angry that the flag will be flown for the service saying the First World War should not be used as an excuse "to engage in flag-waving exercises". Said Mullan:

"While I have no issue with people wishing to mark the First World War, I believe that these occasions should not be used as opportunities to engage in flag-waving exercises. On this occasion permission has been sought to erect a mobile flag pole and a platform outside the council offices.

"The horrors of the First World War, or indeed any war, should not be used to engage in flag-waving, which has been the cause of so much grief here in Northern Ireland far from the killing fields of Flanders and other battlefields, where men fought side by side and put their differences aside.

"Now that we have a new opportunity to engage in the future history of Ireland let us do it together and put away the symbols of division and disunity."

However DUP MLA for East Derry George Robinson defended the flying of the flag pointing out that it is protocol for the flag to be flown due to a royal ceremony:

"The flag will be on a mobile base and won’t be located on council property, although it will be on Roads Service ground at the front of the council offices. The flag will only be flown for a matter of half an hour and will be taken down immediately after.

"The only people who will be offended by this, in my opinion, are those people who want to be offended."

I find myself agreeing with Mr Robinson. Only people spoiling for a disagreement will find fault with this. It seems to me like a perfectly reasonable commemoration service. Mr Mullan brings up the brave men from across the island who put aside their differences to fight by side. I think Mr Mullan should ask himself how those men would feel about the flying of a union jack for thirty minutes becoming a bone of contention! I reckon they'd tell him to wise up.

Let it go, Gerry

I don't like flags being used for tribal purposes as a way to rub it in the face of the "other side" but clearly that is not what this is about. Mr Mullan talks about putting away "the symbols of division and disunity" but the flag itself is just a piece of cloth. Look beyond the flag. Look at the people who are putting up the flag and ask whether they are doing this to a) rub your nose in it or b) to show respect. If it's the latter - which I believe to be the case - what's the bloody problem?

I think Mr Mullan would have been better off trying to negotiate the flying of the Irish tricolour at the same time if this bothered him so much. There was a wonderful occasion in 2005 in Derry which saw the tricolour and the union jack flying side by side for the first time to honour those who died in World War 1. I'm sure Mr Robinson, an MLA for Derry, would have been willing to consider something along those lines.

The future history of Ireland which Mr Mullan touched on above should not be an Ireland that seeks to ban, to censor, to suppress etc. It should be an Ireland that listens, that tolerates, that respects.

I think the SDLP do themselves a lot of harm engaging in this sort of nit-picking nonsense. Focus on the important issues and leave this sort of idiocy to RSF and the rest of the insecure loons.


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