Where are the flag-protestors going? Nowhere fast, it would appear. There have been dwindling numbers, which is not surprising, since pretty well everybody accepts that Belfast City Council isn’t going to accede to their demands that the Union flag be reinstated to fly 365 days a year. If they did, it would be a signal that democratic decision-making can be stopped in its tracks if you defy the law loudly enough and often enough. But when you know your objective is never going to happen, it’s common sense to stop standing about in the cold codding yourself you’re doing something useful.
But I do agree with the flag protestors’ Jamie Bryson on one point: "I view this as a cynical attempt to use the UDR parade and the protest to undermine each other and create divisions within our community” Jamie says. Well no, I don’t quite agree with him. The aim of unionist politicians is not to undermine the flag protest movement. The aim is to kill it. It’s embarrassing them as well as harming the international image of Belfast and local trade.
Maybe I’m just getting forgetful, but were there 1,000 people on the streets this time last year, commemorating the two UDR soldier killed by an IRA bomb in 1988? Perhaps there were. But if there weren’t, then it’s hard not to see unionist leaders using the anniversary of the two men’s deaths as anything other than a weapon with which to club the flags’ protest out of existence.