More flags than ever in NI

Published Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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There are more flags on display in Belfast than ever, a leading academic has told UTV.

More flags than ever in NI
Flags were erected across east Belfast ahead of a UVF memorial parade. (© UTV)

The symbols have sparked violence in recent months after a Belfast City Council decision to only fly the Union flag on 18 designated days each year.

Recently more flags were erected in east Belfast to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

While some have already been removed, three weeks after the commemoration, others remain.

Dominic Bryan, director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University, has conducted research into the flags and said that they are being put out earlier than before.

He explained: "It has been obvious with the flag dispute and with some commemorations that the number of flags - new flags - being put up in the winter months has increased."

We do have a divided society and flags and emblems in this society cause confrontation and conflict.

Dr Dominic Bryan

Dr Bryan said the flags have also gone up in areas where they have not previously been displayed, adding that around 80% of people do not want any flags to be erected.

He said: "We also know that 60% of people believe flags are put on lamp posts by the paramilitary groups

"Whether that's true or not, people believe that flags demarcate paramilitary space. And that's not just paramilitary flags - that's the Union flag and tricolours.

"We also know that people are less likely to shop in areas where flags are flying."

He explained that although it is normal to express a political identity, those in Northern Ireland need to be aware of the problems this can cause.

Dr Bryan added: "It's also reasonable in this society to think, how can we allow people to express an identity without that identity being transformed into the management of a territorial space which can intimidate people?"

Police started to take flags down in Ballyclare two years ago, however that led to riots.

Six officers were injured, and 15 vehicles hijacked - many of them set alight - after police took down a limited number of flags in the Grange Drive and Doagh Road areas of the Co Antrim town.

The force was criticised for not consulting with local residents before taking action, and afterwards the Assistant Chief Constable apologised for the move.

The PSNI said removing flags is not their responsibility.

A spokesperson said: "The issue of flying flags affects all of Northern Ireland and can be a difficult and emotive one. There is an ongoing review of the 'Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas' by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

"We look forward to the outcome of this review."

© UTV News
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54 Comments
paul in northern ireland wrote (445 days ago):
Any flags erected 24/7/365 will always be contensious. Either they are seen as intimidating by one community or the other. IF they are left up all year round,they become a disgrace on the community that erected them. The biggest disgrace in the last month is the disrepect held for the local community in East Belfast by those who erected the 100yr UVF commemoration flags. The local community and the Police were assured by those erecting these flags, that they would be brought down again AFTER the upcoming Saturday parade in April through East Belfast. They are STILL up. Why are the local Loyalist community reps not ensuring these flags have been brought down. SHAME on them.
Noel in Belfast wrote (451 days ago):
The flying of flags here is not an issue of culture as some people would like to believe. It is rather a form of propaganda, our own home brew method of psychological warfare, designed to drill a political point of view into people from an early age and it happens to work very well. I know it works very well because when kids as young as 10 attack me on the street with knives because I am heading in the direction of the place that fly's the different flag, it becomes immediately apparent that it works very well. It is an issue that needs to be tackled by politicians and law enforcement with persistence. The police cannot simply run away from it, that is a failure of your duties.
henry in north of ireland wrote (453 days ago):
give this story a miss when i seen the headline, but got bored so here goes, flag fleg flags flegs who cares, wrap urself up in one i couldnt give a fiddlers. if i travel to the south of ireland i will see many nations flags flying inclueding the union flag, fleg but i dont grap a wheelebin for height to put it down, and i dont see any protesters from sinn fein harping on how they are offend by it,....i couldnt care less about loyalist and what they put on the lamps, it was the one on our city hall that matterd and thats been settled.... if ya see a kangeroo bounce around belfast does that mean ur in austraila..... prob spelt that wrong.....sue me
Brendan Mc Custer in Omagh wrote (453 days ago):
I think it is a real utter disgrace that all prodestant schools have to fly a union jack all year. Its like a dog marking its teritory. Who on the under god is young children going to learn to respect catholics when they do things like this. Where do you see any catholic schools flying the tri colour. Shame on loyalist schools.
James in Glengormley wrote (453 days ago):
What about the Irish tricolours that were erected for Easter commemerations in Glengormley? The people responsible said last year they would be removed after easter period, and they were removed. This year - they are still on lamp posts, and they are now rags. No respect. The people in this area never wanted such demarcation regardless of political opinion and any flags are largely unwelcome here. It is outsider minorities erecting these pieces of fabric, who are imposing on residents. All local residents must endure this demarcation and suffer the consequences; being made targets, abuse, humiliation, lowering of house prices and making a nice place into a ghetto. Can these flags be removed or can residents remove them without fear or can our cops come and remove them. We dont want them. We dont want any colour boundaries or borders, lets progress please.
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BRIAN ROWAN
The pictures from Stormont this week showed us how politics here still walks in and out of step.
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