When I was a teenage boarder in St Columb’s in Derry, I used hold my breath on a Saturday night as my (illegal) crystal set ( attached to metal bed-post and under-mattress bed-springs) played the hits and told me what was Number One that week. Maybe that’s what’s motivating the flaggers: last night they were Number One item on practically every TV channel l- BBC One, BBC News 24, RTÉ, Sky. Well done, guys. You’re famous.
But I have a number of questions that baffle me:
- Could the PSNI have seen to it that the City Hall demonstrators went home to East Belfast without going near, much less directly past the Short Strand? After all, every year over 3,000 marches ensure that the rest of us must wait/take a detour while the loyal sons of Ulster remember that battle more than 300 years ago.
- What kind of reporting describes demonstrations as ‘peaceful’ when they are in fact blocking roads? Or has the law against such actions been changed when I wasn’t paying attention?
- Let’s imagine for a moment Parity of Arrogance. Flag protestors from the Short Strand, outraged that the parity of esteem promised by the GFA has not been delivered, decide to block off roads and wave Irish tricolours. How long would it be before the PSNI cleared the road? How often would the media report such events as ‘peaceful’?
- When will the media accept and report that both-flags-or-none is a reasonable position to take in a society that is hoping for a shared future? And when will they note that republicans actually made a concession when they voted for flying the Union flag on 17 occasions?
- What unionist leader will be honest enough to tell his/her followers that the times, they are a-changin’? With Belfast a city 49% nationalist, 42% unionist; with the school-going population showing Protestant numbers lagging far behind Catholic numbers; with the Protestant population generally having a more-elderly profile than that of Catholics - it’s not a question of if change comes, it’s a question of how change will come. I’m for peaceful, managed change that shows equal respect (and equal means equal) for both traditions, rather than trying to contain the contradictions of yesteryear until they explode and the jagged debris damages us all.