Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Maggie, the flag and managing the vote
Maggie Ritchie, God bless her little red jacket, is busy buttressing her unionist vote in South Down. The VO this morning reports that she’s concerned something bad may happen at the St Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. It seems a Sinn Féin councillor wants to carry a tricolour in the parade. Maggie says. “There may be a place for waving tricolours and places for wearing Celtic jerseys, but the place of these things is not at the front of a St Patrick’s Day parade. We will not allow the Downpatrick parade to be hijacked by those who celebrate in this exclusivist way”.
You couldn’t beat it with a Lambeg drum. That bit about Celtic jerseys, for example. Maggie lobbed it in to link Eamonn Con Midhe, the SF councillor, with the raw and dangerous emotions of Old Firm clashes. Nice one, Maggie. Nothing to do with Downpatrick but nice one.
What it comes down to is simple. On Ireland’s national day of celebration, the day when Irish people throughout the world rejoice in their identity and display signs and symbols to express that delight, there’s a part of Ireland where displaying the national flag is seen as ‘exclusivist’. You’re joking, Maggie. Tell me you’re joking.
Try it the other way round. Do nationalists and republicans allow signs and symbols to exclude them? If they did, they’d never have set foot in Belfast City Hall, Stormont or dozens of other British-symbol draped buildings throughout the north. Why then should the display of the Irish national flag on Ireland’s national day exclude anyone? Better still : why would the SDLP, a party that claims to be nationalist and sometimes even republican, claim that it does?
Oh right. The unionist vote in South Down. I forgot. Tá bron orm.