Here we go again folks, we’re entering the home straight towards the “traditional” taig baiting season.
I went for a stroll down Bangor Pier yesterday. It was the first day of the “Sea Bangor” festival celebrating the seaside towns long maritime association as a port on the east coast. I was somewhat disappointed I must admit. The entire pier consisted of a tall ship from the Netherlands, brilliant! and a British warship along with 9 (I counted them) recruitment stalls for the British army including and I kid you not, a cuddly bear stall with uniformed bears. Perhaps there was a subtle message there for fans of the latest reformed ibrox domiciled franchise?
Meanwhile, in this part of the world, it’s groundhog day for dummies.
I used the phrase “Taig baiting” deliberately. My view of the whole thing is that much of the purpose of the day is not about defining who and what the British minority in Ireland are, and what they are for but rather what they are against and how they will defend that position. It is no accident that much of the display at this time of year is quasi militaristic in nature and the message is unambiguous.
The message is simple, we will defend our position by force of arms if necessary.
Hmmm, not exactly a unionist outreach strategy is it?
Regarding the flags, a couple of estates in Bangor are festooned with the usual paramilitary reminders, the Stormont standard, upside down union flags, union flags flown below the paramilitary ones etc. Thnkfully, the town centre is free of flags this year, no doubt in exchange for council funding. An interesting civic responsibility policy?
As for the Flags? Suffice to say they are a symbol, often used by those who lack confidence in their opinions or feel their beliefs are under threat. They are important in that sense as they often give voice to people who lack the ability to articulate their views and are unwilling or unable to argue that point of view in a conventional way by engaging in argument and persuasion their perceived “opponents”
Flags shouldn’t be like that, they should be a symbol of unity, not domination, pride, not supremacy, identity, not hatred of neighbours, confidence, not hubris.
It is unfortunate if any group of people identify themselves by what they are not.
Just this week, the Orange Order couldn’t bring themselves to include an Irish national flag in their new museum reflecting their “south of the border” members, although the place was funded by Irish taxpayers to the tune of €700,000. Is anyone surprised?
Personally, I’d enjoy a few pints with Enda Kenny and a few home truths might be thrown in instead of the customary crisps regarding funding these bigots. Mind you, He’s from Mayo and those boys don’t tend to like us Dubs.
Meanwhile, the tour of the north (Which bits?) parade passed by St Patricks on Clifton St, actually observing the legal rulings regarding their behaviour, fantastic. Then one of the bands broke into the famed “Famine song” the second they had passed the determined point. This displayed the usual stunning lack of self awareness and knowledge of history for which such bands are renowned.
Still, this is progress of a sort, which, to borrow Séamus Heaneys phrase, drips slow in these parts.
One day, political unionism will have to cut clean and tell its followers the truth. The truth is that unionism is a minority, not just in Ireland but in this region also now. If the myth of superiority, supremacism and hubris is not challenged, the shock to the mindset of the British people in Ireland will be all the greater.
Meanwhile, in sunny Bangor, the pretence that all is as it was may go on. Although it has the oldest age demographic in the North, the symbolism of marching the youngest and most impressionable Bangorians off the end of the pier in the service of an army responsible for the murder of many, many citizens in Ireland, under the guise of a “festival” here left me a little cold.