Jude Collins

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

O Happy Day, O Happy Flagpole...

‘O Happy Day!’  Is that the song unionists will have on their lips today? Especially the flag protestor unionists? You might expect so, because today the Union flag will be raised over City Hall once again. It’s to mark the birthday of  Katie Middleton,  former commoner, now the Duchess of Cambridge. It’ll go up on 17 or is it 18 other days in the year, including the queen’s two birthdays (don’t ask.)  Anyway, the sight that so many unionist hearts have hungered after will be available - is available - all day long today. The question now is, will it really be greeted as a happy day? Will the glass be half-full or half-empty?

Half-full, if they look on the bright  side and see their flag, the flag of their country, fluttering proudly over the heads of shoppers, dole-collectors, beggars and beauticians. And, of course, taigs. Half-empty, if they look on the dark side and keep reminding themselves that as dusk falls, the flag will be lowered again and won’t appear until another important date on the calendar, like the birthday of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.  In other words, will unionists rejoice in the flag going up or seethe as the flag is brought down again? 

I suspect it’ll hurt more than heal, tantalise more than reduce tension. IA bit like somebody who’s gone off cigarettes or drink for Lent, being periodically offered a few puffs or swallows, only to have the desired fag or glass snatched away again. The wound created by the realisation that Belfast is now a city with a nationalist majority may be helped heal as the flag goes up, but it may also itch and bleed as the flag is lowered some twelve hours later. 

Maybe some comfort will be derived if they recall the words of Enoch Powell (who was, after alll, a stout unionist MP for a time) when he opined that “all political careers end in failure”. That’s how life is. Or they could take a wider, more historic view of power and its ultimate futility, by remembering Shelley’s great lines in ‘Ozymandias’. You’ll remember how the traveller has come on”two vast and trunkless legs of stone” in the desert with an inscription written beneath:

“ ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

So am I suggesting a comparison between the Ozymandias statue and that of Queen Victoria in front of Belfast City Hall? Pass. 


  1. An idea to get some of our young out of work teachers back into employment for a while: mandatory Good Friday Agreement facts and explanations classes for everyone in NI, to be followed up yearly in schools as kids turn 12. This should go as far as for example; explaining that Irish Republicans did not turn into unionists and of course they want the union abolished, that the constitutional position of NI now rests with the people, the basics of how democracy works, etc, etc. I think it has come to this unfortunately. We cannot expect the disaffected to articulate their views into anything approaching coherence for all the world to see ...if they haven't got a clue what they're talking about!

    This is not me being patronizing before someone says that - over the past weeks it has become totally clear that a lot of people were fed a lot of lies, hype and BS in relation to GFA and have been on a steady diet ever since. Everyone needs the harsh truth and all facts ASAP!

  2. Do you think there is such a thing as a loyalist who is educated in politics in general, like outside of unionist indoctrination..? Seriously, I find it hard to believe there aren't a few who understand left/right wing stuff and what issues actually affect their communities - if so, how could aligning themselves to right wing conservative parties on every and all issues, be in any way positive for them?

    "Well as long as a fenian doesn't become first minister, that's all that matters isn't it, who cares if I still have an outside toilet in 2013!"