Over time, this site, which is primarily focussed upon demographic and political changes in the North East of Ireland, has been getting a broad readership with both nationalist and unionist views represented (plus a surprisingly wide readership around the world). A good thing from my point of view. Of course my choice of language ” the North East of Ireland”, will grate somewhat with those of a unionist mind. Unionists like to think of this place as a “Wee Country” or more specifically “Our Wee Country”. They use the flag of the old, totally discredited, Stormont parliament as if it represents the place. It doesn’t of course and the manner in which it is used reinforces nationalist opinions and memories of the days of unionist domination.
There is much talk in political circles currently about a “Shared Future”. A worthy and admirable objective except for the obvious fact, which is hardly mentioned, that there is no agreed definition of what exactly that is. The DUP think it is about integrated education full stop. Nationalists think it is about parity of esteem across a broad spectrum. We all saw what happened with the City Hall “Fleg” debacle. Currently the selection of unionist flags includes a variety of loyalist paramilitary ones alongside that of the Parachute Regiment. A calculated insult designed solely to hurt. My own opinion is simple. Shared future means both flags or none.
And so to the Eleventh Night. On Thursday night loyalists will proceed to light bonfires across the North on top of which they will burn my flag. They will do this to celebrate a 300 year old battle for the English crown which took place at the Boyne. They will then expect me to recognise this as their “culture”. Well actually I don’t. I regard it as offensive, supremacist and incredibly insular and backward looking.
That is not to say that I don’t recognise their right to be as British as they want, I do but there is a quid pro quo. Unionism is now a minority even in the six counties they currently claim. They are actually only in a majority in one and a half of those six counties. Unionism needs to start showing some respect for the people they share this space with if they expect to receive any in return.
I make no apologies for my use of the term “North East of Ireland” although I absolutely recognise the rights of others to call it whatever they wish. I am wondering when they are going to show nationalists the same courtesy?
After the 11th night the Loyal Orders will have their annual day out on the twelfth. A day out that seems to me, at least, to extend for months on end. I wish individuals well, particularly those who I am in touch with here and who attend for honest reasons. I can actually understand and, to an extent, empathise with those who appreciate the comradeship and companionship of being members of a society. I fully appreciate the attractions of having an annual day out with a parade followed by speeches, burgers, music and a nice picnic in a field. But this?
I am the last person that Unionists will listen to but I seem to remember hearing a lot about nationalists distancing themselves from their more “extreme” elements. I believe that has happened unequivocally. I am yet to see the loyal orders or indeed unionist politicians utter a word against their own “extreme” elements. The silence is deafening. Perhaps it is time decent unionists took a stand?