|William Ferguson Massey|
Gerry Anderson says he longs to live somewhere else because of arguments over them, John Hume’s da said you couldn’t eat one, and last night Councillor Boyd Douglas (TUV) brought one into a meeting of Limavady Borough Council. The union flag displayed by Councillor Douglas was contrary to the no-flags-in-the-chamber policy of the council, so a vote was taken and the meeting was abandoned. When he was asked about his actions on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme this morning, Councillor Boyd, who's been around for fourteen years, said he didn’t know there was a no-flags policy.
I think Limavady council has made a mistake in banning all flags. Their idea is to create a neutral environment in the council chamber but of course that’s never going to happen. Councillor Boyd says he’s all for a neutral environment and doesn’t see how the flag of his country violates that. He probably doesn’t see how the statue of William Ferguson Massey at the entrance to the council offices breaches neutrality either. For him WFM was big in New Zealand and big in the Orange Order, and wasn't it great he was both?
A neutral environment in the six counties is impossible. Everywhere you look, you see monuments and statues and symbols which remind you that you are in a British state. You may favour their removal or you may think removal abhorrent, but either way they won’t be moving.
So since unionists like Boyd won’t allow the creation of a no-flags-no-symbols policy - a neutral environment - the only reasonable alternative would be the display of Irish flags and statues and symbols alongside the many British already in place. After all, around fifty per cent of the population here see themselves as Irish rather than British. It seems reasonable that they should be free to display those symbols that matter to them, alonside the emblems which their unionist neighbours hold dear.
There is a third alternative. Those who believe in the free display of flags and emblems, along with those who believe in a neutral environment, could bow their heads and accept that their views and their loyalties don’t matter in this north-east corner. Maybe that's the answer.