Fix Perspective

Belfast Flag Flap Disrupts Irish Peace Path

By Peter
Kelly
Junior
Reporter
BELFAST,
Northern Ireland – The unceremonious scenes that unfortunately dominated
Northern Irish headlines in the end of last year were, for so many, a sorry and
unwanted reminder of the dark, old days of The Troubles – a time the Northern
Irish people thought they had left behind.
The local
Stormont government voted on December 3rd to limit the number of days that the
Union flag flies over Belfast City Hall. That’s when Protestant unionists took
to the streets in protest.
The protests
had originally set out to be peaceful demonstrations but inevitably spilt over
to violence and caused serious detrimental effects to the country.
Nearby
businesses were forced to close and took a serious hit. Most noticeably, the
Christmas continental market was forced to extend its stay to regain income.
Roads became shut off and trains were cancelled, and the overall economy of
Northern Ireland is reported to have missed out on roughly 20 million pounds.
Businesses
were at a loss of just under 15 million, while policing the protests cost a
further 7 million pounds. Moreover, since December, approximately 150 people
were arrested and charged with offenses connected to street disorder, and
injuries to police officers are in the hundreds.
The horrific
scenes of rioting cast an undesirable resemblance to the days of the Troubles,
and the people of Northern Ireland can take two important lessons from it all.
Firstly, and
somewhat disappointingly, is that the two main parties of the Stormont
government can unfortunately continue to bully and manipulate both sides of the
community.
It was Sinn
Fein who propositioned the removal of the union flag, which was irrefutably an
action from which they can seem to keep up a nationalist agenda, and appeal to
the republican voters. It all simply should have been dealt with in a more
sensitive manner.
On the other
side of the coin, it was the Democratic Unionist Party that pressured the
loyalist communities onto the streets in protest, boiling sectarian blood even
more and influencing the inevitable development of violence.
This is
regrettably an illustration of the two main parties’ persistent ability to
employ sectarian politics to ensure a majority vote, and crucially, it’s where
the main problem of Northern Ireland lies.
For as long
as the people of Northern Ireland are governed by parties that can fuel
sectarian tension for the requirement of votes, then there will always remain
the potential for the return of the scenes we unfortunately had to endure over
the past months.
Northern
Ireland needs a government that will cater to both sides of the community and
steer the country in the direction of a collective national identity, which is
what the vast majority of Northern Irish people seek.
Protests
have unfortunately continued into March, with yet another police officer
injured as a result of rioting on Sunday, March 17, but the Northern Irish
people continue to remain positive. This is where the second and more
importantly, positive, lesson comes in: that the Northern Irish people will not
accept being clawed back into the dark days by the narrow-minded actions of the
few.
On Jan. 6,
more than 1,000 people turned out for a peace demonstration in Belfast in
opposition to the violence, highlighting quite clearly that the Northern Irish
public will not stand for a return to sectarian divisions.
A “Backin’
Belfast” campaign was launched in January as a response to the violence and bid
to thrust the Northern Irish people back to the shops in the city center. The campaign
was a great success with the Northern Irish Retail Consortium recording an
encouraging increase in Belfast shoppers during the month of February. This
demonstrates the resiliency of the public to not let the protests intrude on
their everyday life, and highlights the success that such positivity can bring.
With the
protests sadly continuing nearly four months after the initial flag bill was
passed, Belfast however remains a commercial hub bursting with culture,
attracting millions of visitors each year.
It is
undoubtedly the majority from within the country who condemn the recent
violence and want Northern Ireland to continue on its path of peace. 

2 Comments

  • This blog provides a very realistic view of what the vast majority of Northern Irish people hope for, and definitely want. The unanimous feeling is that the people want the flag hassle to end, and to certainly put an end to a possible recurrence of another Troubles. I think it's really important that the blog points out that Ireland is a great place, and that there is always hope.

  • Just a quick point. It was the council not stormont that voted to take the flag down. Other than that, good article