Well the worse weekend yet of rioting and violent attacks by anti-democracy protesters from the British Unionist monitory in the north-east of Ireland. Days (and nights) of sustained disturbances in several areas, notably the city of Belfast, dozens injured, homes and businesses damaged, hijacked cars set alight, roads and streets blockaded, and as always assaults on the Irish Nationalist communities of the North, in particular the besieged enclave of the Short Strand.
The reasons for all this? Because the British Unionist minority in Ireland says’s no to democracy, as they have always done so, and through violence and the threat of violence they attempt to enforce their political views on everyone else in the country. Several weeks ago a majority of the elected members of Belfast City Council voted to reduce to the number of days the British national flag would fly from the rooftop of the city hall. From an original motion of no flags at all the council agreed a compromise motion of seventeen designated days when the British flag could be flown, thanks to discussions with the liberal Unionists of the small Alliance Party. These days were generally ones deemed to be of special significance to the city’s British Unionist community: the official birthday of Britain’s head of state, royal births and marriages and other ceremonial events.
Most councillors clearly believed that this was a fair compromise that generously favoured the Unionists since it gave no room for the majority Irish Nationalist community in Belfast to display their national identity in the city’s official architecture. But for the Unionist mob, initially urged on by the political leaders of Unionism in the form of the DUP head Peter Robinson and UUP boss Mike Nesbitt, even this half-hearted equality was too much to stomach. They wanted continued Unionist domination in Belfast and were quite prepared to risk anarchy on the streets to get it. And anarchy is what they achieved.
As the result of over a month of civil unrest by a militant minority from the British Unionist population in the north-east I have learned that further attempts to place both main communities in the city of Belfast on an equal footing have now been shelved. In particular private discussions between Sinn Féin and SDLP councillors to agree a motion to be submitted to the council’s policy and resources committee calling for the Irish national flag, the Tricolour, to be flown beside the British national flag on Saint Patrick’s Day (the 17th of March ironically being one of the “designated days”) have been suspended for fear of drawing even further Unionist violence.
So the anti-democrats of Unionism have won the flags’ issue in a sense. On March the 17th 2013, the feast-day and holiday of Ireland’s national saint, the British national flag will fly once again from the rooftop of Belfast City Hall. But the Irish national flag will not do so. For as usual, violence and the threat of violence by the British Unionist minority on the island of Ireland will have succeeded.
UPDATE: FJH has his own take on the rumours around the flying of the Tricolour on St. Patrick’s Day in Belfast.