As Belfast City Hall braces itself for another flags protest at lunchtime today, and Leinster House in Dublin waits with fear and trembling for the arrival of Willie Frazer and his rag-tag-and-bobtail crew, who will demand “sarcastically” (Willie’s word, I promise you) that the tricolour be removed from above that place, my thoughts turn naturally to Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
What is she for? I mean, not what does she support (we’ll get to that in a minute) but what purpose does she serve? Apart, that is, from being ready to keep in jail someone like Marian Price, on the impeccable legal grounds that she doesn’t like the look of her or what she might do next. At one time - when we had no Assembly - I could see a case being argued for a Secretary of State. These days, other than living in luxury above in Hillsborough Castle, does she do anything?
Well yes. Let’s be fair. The woman has come out and has said that the flags protest is a bad thing and should stop. What, after all, is the point in disrupting civil life and issuing death threats, all over a flag that’s going to get its 15 or 17 days in the sun anyway? To the cool eye of a detached observer like Theresa, the people gathering in front of City Hall today, not to mention the ones attacking police in places like Carrickfergus and Albertbrige Road, must appear a bunch of primitive natives.
Except, er, um, it appears to depend on what flag we’re talking about and where it’s being flown/not being flown. Thanks to a pointer from a sharp-eyed poster on one of my blogs, I can now reveal that Theresa believes flags are very important. In 2000, a newspaper report records that the Foreign Office “came under fire” when it was found that two of Britain’s three embassies in Belgium fail regularly to fly the Union flag. This is when the Tories were in opposition. They were very miffed at this non-flag-flying, and said it showed a lack of national pride by the Foreign Office.
“It is part of a conspiracy to sell us down the road until we find ourselves just a province of the United States of Europe. Our flag should fly every day, that’s what embassies are for”.
Change a few words in that and it could have been drafted by one of our own revolting flag-people. And who was the speaker? Non other than a London MEP of the time, one Theresa Villiers.
I think she and Willie Frazer should have a little chat together. They’ll be amazed at how much they have in common.