Several weeks ago the elected members of Belfast City Council voted by a majority to end the year-round flying of the British national flag from the rooftop of the city hall. Councillors agreed instead to reduce the number of days the flag was flown to certain “designated days”; essentially those periods during the year held to be of special significance to the British Unionist minority in the city (for instance the “official” birthday of Britain’s monarch). However the reaction from the more extreme elements of the British separatist population across the North of Ireland was one of outrage and fury at this “compromise” with the political representatives of Belfast’s Irish Nationalist majority.
In answer to the calls by Unionist political and community leaders to defy the decision street demonstrations and rioting have been combined with attacks on perceived symbols of Irishness in the north-east of the country (Roman Catholic churches, non-state schools as well as sports and community centres belonging to the GAA). Dozens of people have been injured so far, and at least two attempts to murder have been carried out by British terrorist groups (in particular by the UVF, a terror organisation which was formerly part of Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland during the long struggle with the Irish Republican Army that preceded the Peace process of the late 1990s and early 2000s).
Now mainstream Unionist politicians, which have traditionally made common cause with their compatriots on the militant edge of Unionism (including the terrorist factions), are finding that they have released forces over which they can exercise scant control. In a strange repetition of the early and middle 1960s when the conservative one-party Unionist regime found itself challenged by more extreme Unionist demagogues from below, a new wave of would-be leaders are emerging from within the British separatist minority in the north-east of Ireland. Many are linked to movements which combine militant Protestant fundamentalism with extreme British nationalism under the guise of a shared British colonial identity or “heritage” on the island of Ireland. A colonial heritage much of which is built upon a hatred or contempt for all things Irish.
In two recent articles I have pointed out that the so-called “flag protests” in the north of the country by militant demonstrators from within the breakaway British Unionist community have very little to do with the issue of the flag flown from the top of Belfast City Hall. Instead they are simply symbolic of wider changes in the last remnant of the British colony on the island of Ireland. Where once a local British and Protestant ethno-national majority existed, and indeed upon which basis the nation of Ireland was forcefully partitioned and the statelet of “Northern Ireland” created, we instead have a nearer balance of British and Irish nationalities. The excuse for the establishment and continued existence of “Northern Ireland”, in British and Unionist eyes, can no longer be said to have any great force.
In 2011 some 47.74% of the population in the North of Ireland described themselves as “British” while 48.36% described themselves as belonging to a Protestant denomination. This means that at the start of the 21st century those who self-identify as British and Protestant are no longer in a regional majority in the north-east of Ireland and so goes the very reason for the existence of “Northern Ireland” as argued at the start of the 20th century.
It is the change in population, evolving demographics, that is the cause of the renewed “troubles” in the North. And the separatist British Unionist minority can see it all around them. Bangordub links to an article featured on his blog which highlights this. From the Unionist-leaning Impartial Reporter newspaper:
“AN Ulster Unionist assembly member has claimed protestant employees of Fermanagh District Council are fearing “verbal and physical abuse” over the use of the Irish language on Council-owned vehicles.
But the chief executive of Fermanagh District Council, Brendan Hegarty, says he is “not aware” of any employees raising concerns, despite what Tom Elliott is claiming.
Mr Elliott is angry that the policy, passed by the Council in June of last year to include Irish graphics on the passenger’s side and the back of its electric vehicles, was not ‘vetted’ by the equality commission first and “bemused” by the Council’s decision not to carry out an equality impact assessment before implementing it.
The politician says he has received complaints about the matter from members of the public and Fermanagh District Council employees.
He wrote: “Members of the public have indicated that while they do not want to have [the] Irish language on the Council vehicles, if that is to happen then there should be equality by also having other languages, including Ulster Scots. I also have a complaint from a member of the Polish Community living in Fermanagh who is complaining that there is no equality in the policy for him as he has a very limited knowledge of English and no knowledge of Irish.”
The pathetic nature of Unionist bigotry is plain to see in the reaction of Tom Elliot, a recent leader of the UUP or the second largest Unionist political party on the island of Ireland. A bigotry that is based upon a British colonial heritage on the island of Ireland that is so imbued with anti-Irish sentiment that it would rather, apparently, see any language on public signage in the statelet of “Northern Ireland” than the indigenous language of the country it exists in.
UPDATE: Thanks to Bangordub for pointing out the typo on what was originally the “Impartial Informer newspaper” 😉
- Death Squad Britain (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Anti-Democrats – The British Unionist Minority In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Past Is A Foreign Country (ansionnachfionn.com)
- People Power – Taking Back The North (ansionnachfionn.com)
- British Bombs On Irish Streets (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Flying The British Flag – To Threaten Irish Schoolchildren (ansionnachfionn.com)
- A Fourth Green Field? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Crisis? What Crisis? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Unionist Minority In Ireland – Do As We Say, Not As We Do! (ansionnachfionn.com)