One of the most revealing statements of a summer full of revealing statements was that by DUP councillor William Humphrey. He said that the Lord Mayor would not have been attacked at Woodvale if he’d listened to them. How so? Because he said people in Woodvale would not tolerate a visit from someone who’d been involved in tearing down the flag from Belfast City Hall.
Whoa. That’s the democratic vote that was made at Belfast City Hall to fly the union flag on 18 specific occasions, as is the case at Stormont. But to suggest such a thing, much less vote for it, is totally unacceptable to Mr Humphrey. So much for democratic politics.
The fact is, there are two communities here (OK, quite a few actually, but two main communities). One has allegiance to the Union flag, one to the Irish tricolour. What to do? What would be fair? Well, a half-wit on a bicycle could suggest that either both flags should be flown or none. But no. The agreement the Lord Mayor and his party accepted was that the Irish tricolour should not be flown at all and that the Union flag be flown 18 times a year. That sounds to me like a decision tilted in favour of unionism.
Uh-uh. It’s outrageous, because it’s not totally, completely and without murmur made a 100% unionist decision.
It’s a hard thing to say, but there are elements of unionism that simply don’t get the idea of parity. I got a strong sense of that when I visited the UUP HQ and suggested that there was some sort of equivalence between republican honouring of their dead and unionist honouring of their dead. I believe William Humphrey was sincere when he said what he did about the Lord Mayor being to blame for the attack on him at Woodvale. I believe some unionist are sincere when they say the flying of the union flag 18 times a year is an outrage. But being sincere, guys, isn’t good enough. Half the population here thinks differently and like it or lump it, you’re going to have to accept them and recognise the things that are important to them. Otherwise you’ll find yourself going back on your Long Kesh/Woodvale word and keeping this “wee country of ours” (copyright Joel Taggart, BBC) an economic and dysfunctional desert.