In the interests of clearing up a matter which has stung quite a few people either on here, on other sites or indeed in face to face conversation I have decided to post on a topic that is quite dear to many people (and to do so in the first person, no humble narrator today).
The topic in question is what is perceived to be my own personal crusade against the Ulster Banner, better thought of by many as the flag of Northern Ireland.
Like many Protestants in Northern Ireland I had one on my bedroom wall as a teenager as well as some smaller ones which adorned key rings, hats or what ever paraphernalia I may have had at the time.
I certainly loved to see it fluttering from lamp posts (back then I didn't see this as tribal or territorial statements, more of a display of patriotism) and to see it at Windsor Park or just in wherever Northern Ireland may be playing.
I would take one with me on holiday along with other flags and I have a clear recollection of waving the flag excitedly to a group of befuddled English high school pupils in Belgium ( I was in high school at the time too lest there be any alarm).
So, how did I go from being a 'lover' to a 'hater'?
Well, I didn't.
I don't hate the flag at all, it is still for me something uniquely 'Norn Iron'.
However, after years of watching Unionist politicians fumble from one disaster to another, play to the gallery and work the crowd again & again I started looking at things a bit more analytically and (I hope) logically.
With this new found openness, I was informed in every official capacity that I came across that the flag that I took to be 'my' flag was in fact NOT.
The Ulster Banner was made redundant in the early 70's with Stormont.
I made enquiries and was informed (twice) by the Northern Ireland Office (Her Majesty's Government's representatives in Northern Ireland) that this was the case.
Now, I was going to scan the letter and post it here but realistically I could quite easily have just typed up my own later, printed that off and scanned it in a feeble attempt to fool everyone so no one would see it as proof any way.
So, here is the address of the people in the know.
Don't take my word for it.
Email them or write to them yourself:
Northern Ireland Office
Although, they did also reply to an email of mine:
"Thank you for your enquiry.
The Official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Flag, this is the only official flag used.
NI has not had it's own unique flag since 1972 when the NI Government and Parliament were prorogued.
NIO Web Team "
Again, ask them yourself, NIO:
A nay-sayer told me that the NIO wouldn't know their flags from their elbows and that Stormont decides such things as that is the work of the NI Executive, our attempt at a 'government'.
So I asked there and they said:
"Guidance and regulations surrounding the flag of Northern Ireland does indeed come from the NI Office and not from the NI Assembly."
So, if you'd like to ask them, Stormont:
This was made public knowledge by none other than TUV leader Jim Allister regarding the topic of the Union Flag:
|From Jim himself|
And to a lesser extent:
|A Union Flag instead of a Northern Ireland flag?|
Even the BBC are of the opinion that the Ulster Flag has no legal status:
Here's a summary of the above link:
|Even Auntie says so|
There are other sites too, but it is the internet after all, so discretion is advised:
There's a plethora of such sites.
So, my position is simply one of logic: We have no flag to call our own.
This coupled with the Unionist strategy for survival rather than a strategy of at least attempting some sort of unionist expansion (why not at least try to make Northern Ireland an appealing place for Catholics? We only need a fraction of their vote for Northern Ireland to withstand a border poll) puts Northern Ireland's very existence at stake.
There was much gloating and rejoicing after 'that poll' by the Spotlight program that declared that a fair whack of Sinn Fein voters would vote to remain in the Union given the choice in a border poll.
If people truly believe this, then how can they logically believe that ALL Catholics are to a man unequivocally opposed to anything Northern Irish or any symbols that represent it?
If you found yourself laughing, jeering or even just believing that the spotlight poll was even half accurate then you've automatically surrendered any right to think that a new Northern Ireland flag would be treated with hostility by ALL of Northern Ireland's Catholics.
"Themuns want to remain in the UK! But are so anti-Union that they'll never accept our Northern Ireland flag!"????
It is not lost on me that should Northern Ireland have a flag of its own that Catholics will not come running over the horizon to embrace the new cloth.
This is not what I am arguing.
Nor is it lost on me that Windsor park will become a much more welcoming place to Catholics without a flag that they PERCEIVE as a loyalist flag being flown so wantonly.
If Catholics start to support Northern Ireland then what do we have to fear with regards to Northern Ireland's survival?
A new flag won't change everything but its a great place to start 'The Change'.
Well, we can limp on as we are now, with an unofficial flag with a controversial image which is off-putting to 1/2 of Northern Ireland's population or as hard as it may be come up with an alternative.
Here's a few ideas from a few different people:
I strongly recommend this site for info and ideas: https://www.facebook.com/newniflag
Like I say, I welcome corrections, I can't preach against ignorance and then deny it when it applies to me.
As for the flags, well, over to you.