Current Affairs Politics

Confederate Flaggers And Unionist Fleggers

British Nationalism in Ireland the Orange Order identifies with the Ku Klux Klan or KKK
A Confederate flag flies alongside the British Union Jack over a new board in Cluan Place reading “Unbowed, Unbroken” with “East Belfast UVF” graffiti, a British terrorist grouping (Íomhá: Extramural Activity 2014)

The similarities between the extreme fringe of the British unionist minority in the north-eastern part of Ireland and the extreme fringe of the neo-confederate minority in the southern part of the United States are occasionally quite eerie. I suppose one can attribute such things to the cultural legacy bequeathed by displaced “Scots-Irish” colonists from Ulster settling in the “Old South” of the North American continent during the 18th and 19th centuries, though that seems a somewhat inadequate explanation to cover the commonalities in religion, society and separateness that persist to the present day. No doubt other more recent socio-economic factors play their part too, factors dating back to the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, which create some resemblances that are more superficial than real. However, allowing for those latter points, there is no surprise in learning that the controversies over the public display of the “Confederate Flag” (strictly speaking, the banner of the Army of Tennessee) and its removal in recent days from various venues, has reinvigorated a movement of “flag protesters” in rural states like Virginia and Tennessee.

A pro-Confederate wall mural in a British unionist area of Belfast referencing the UVF, a terrorist faction
A pro-Confederate wall mural in a British unionist area of Belfast referencing the UVF, a terrorist faction (Íomhá: Choosing the Green – Roghnú Glas)


Back in late 2012 a majority of the members on Belfast city council voted to restrict the number of days the UK flag would fly over the building housing their offices. This move reflected the changed demographics in Ireland’s second city where a new Irish nationalist majority wished to see the allegiances of their community reflected in the public life and emblems of Belfast. While for pro-Britain loyalists the banner was the familiar and reassuring “Union Flag” or “Union Jack”, for others it was – in these circumstances at least – the supremacist and offensive “Butcher’s Apron”. Predictably some in the unionist community, encouraged by the vocal rabble-rousing of their senior politicians, reacted with outrage at the decision, no matter its democratic credentials. This quickly turned to violence resulting in nearly two years of intermittent street-protests, rioting, road-blockades, gun and bomb attacks, property-burnings, mass arrests, expulsions and all the other events that became indelibly associated with the “flag protests” of 2012-2014. The “fleggers” as they were dubbed by their opponents – ridiculing the heavy Ulster accents of some – were known for their fanatical devotion to their “British heritage and rights” in opposition to equality, civil rights, progressivism, liberalism, and above all, Irishness.

Now, in several regions of the United States, we have a similar movement on behalf of the “heritage and rights” of the South, and in defence of the memory of the Confederate States of America in particular. In fact the various groupings under the label of “flaggers” have been going since 2011, pushing for a greater presence of Confederate symbols across the southern US. However in the wake of the Charleston church massacre by Dylann Roof, and the horrified reaction focusing on his affiliation with the Confederate flag (rather than with his guns, of course), these organisations have seen an upsurge in support and membership.

More here.

15 comments on “Confederate Flaggers And Unionist Fleggers

  1. Having lived in both the northern six counties and the southern United States, I am sad to say that this one hell of a piece. Thanks.

  2. I’d consider the Ulster Banner our swastika. Union Jack and the Union Flag are very simiiliar least both america and britain have some redeeming characteristics whereas the confederates and ulster nationalists( UDA, UVF,UFF,OO, TUV,DUP,UUP) have noen

  3. We’re on the same track today 🙂

  4. As an outsider, I don’t understand why some in Northern Ireland would identify with the Confederate flag. Ulster nationalists were and are backed by the British government, so the analogy to the Confederacy, which sought to break away from its “motherland,” the United States, doesn’t seem apparent to me. Or am I missing something obvious?

    • The answer, of course, is that very few people in Northern Ireland do identify with the Confederate flag. I live close to a town with a number of loyalist estates and in many years as a casual observer I’ve only ever seen one and I’d be very surprised if the people who erected it knew anything about its origin, as they tend not to be deep thinkers. They probably know as much about it as the Cork hurling followers, who also seem to occasionally display it.
      The 18th Century migration of Ulster Presbyterians to America is too remote in time for any real links to remain, in contrast to Canada where heavy emigration from the late 19th century onwards has lead to links which endure to the present day. Interestingly the “Scots-Irish” tended to settle in the Piedmont and mountain areas of the South, where unionist sympathies were strong during the Civil War and very few of them, like most white Southerners, would have owned slaves. Most Southerners probably got dragged into a war that wasn’t really their own. Plus ca change!
      Just read a very interesting book by a Southern academic called James C. Cobb, namely “Away down South :A history of Southern identity,” he has some stuff on the flag, etc.

      • Very interesting. I do know that many of the Scots-Irish who settled in the Piedmont were ambivalent toward slavery. Slavery was lower in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, in particular, where there was also lower support for secession than other parts of the South.

        • Yes, I believe every Confederate state except South Carolina sent troops to the Union army, East Tennessee contributed about 30,000. The editor of the main newspaper in Knoxville, himself of “Scots-Irish” origin, is alleged to have said that he would fight secession until hell froze over, then fight it on the ice and, of course, Sam Houston of Texas, a legendary “Ulster-Scot” was an inveterate opponent of secession. So they weren’t all Stonewall Jacksons, or Jeb Stuarts!
          Personally, I’m very sceptical about the existence of any coherent Scots-Irish community/ ethnic identity in the U.S., it seems to have been an almost retrospective creation in response to later Irish Catholic immigration. It appears to be fashionable now for almost every country/bluegrass artist to claim Scots-Irish ancestry, though most of them have distinctly un-Scots-Irish surnames, perhaps a case of picking the most “romantic” part of your ancestry and ignoring the perhaps more predominant English, German, etc, components.

          • I do believe there are people here who are aware of and proud of their Scots-Irish background, often in respect to the hardiness of many of the early Scots-Irish settlers. But I agree that many folks engage in a sort of cafeteria-style genealogy, picking the ethic identity that suits them at that moment.

              • Very interesting. Having lived in 10 different states I can tell you that, like most very large nations, the US could probably be broken up into several different nations and things would operate a least a little more smoothly. Of course, no national-level politician is going to go along with the loss of tax revenue that that would entail.

              • I think Vox and a couple of other sites have played that game, coming up with various combinations. Of course if British conspiracies had come to fruition in the 1700s, dividing the revolutionary movement in North America against itself, there could well have been two or more “United States” competing with each other for supremacy.

              • Ah, good ol’ perfidious Albion. When hasn’t it been up to a nefarious conspiracy or two?

    • Yes, you are missing a few components: 1) The British gov’t financed the CSA, even supplied at least one warship, and 2) Both the CSA and Northern Unionists are all about supremacy; the former insisted upon WASP supremacy, owning slaves and suppression of Catholics and Jews, while Six County Protestant identify themselves with supremacy over the indigenous Irish (Catholics), and 3) The KKK is the US branch of their Orange Order blood cousins.

      • If the C.S.A. believed in suppressing Catholics and Jews they certainly had a strange way of showing it, at least in the case of the latter group. Judah P. Benjamin, a Jew, was appointed to high office in the Confederate cabinet, serving as Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State. He was a wealthy slave owner from Louisiana.
        I’m a Northern Irish Protestant and I certainly have no desire to establish a position of supremacy over my Catholic neighbours, all I want to do is live in harmony and equality with them : I believe most Protestant people in N.I. feel the same.
        As far as I know the K.K.K. is not the American wing of the Orange Order, if it were it might find the O.O. a rather uncongenial parent, as the O.O. has black members and when it was strong in Canada it had native (Indian) Canadian members.

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