I READ with interest the letter from William Cobain entitled “Would nationalists accept a new flag?” and objecting to a call from Lord Kilclooney for a new Northern Ireland flag to be designed.
Having watched the flags protests unfold, the question is not whether nationalists would accept one, but would loyalists?
It is true that the Union Flag currently is Northern Ireland’s only official flag, but this wasn’t always the case, and many of those protesting also fly a local, regional flag - the old Ulster Banner.
However, these same protesters have singularly failed to spot the irony or indeed hypocrisy of saying the Union Flag is the only flag that should be flown, when waving the Ulster Banner.
What is also shocking is the complete absence of awareness that, in a protest to keep a flag flying, those involved haven’t noticed that outside of sports, the Ulster Banner is never flown from our Government buildings, apart from some local councils.
While the Ulster Banner was adopted in 1953, it was officially withdrawn from use in 1972 with the imposition of Direct Rule, and never reinstated. It is worth noting that Lord Kilclooney served in Stormont at the time the Ulster Banner was Northern Ireland’s official flag.
If you read the guidelines issued by HM Government, The Union Flag and Flags of the United Kingdom, it unequivocally states that: “The Ulster flag and the Cross of St Patrick have no official status and under the Flags Regulations are not permitted to be flown from Government buildings.”
Scotland, England and Wales all have their own, officially recognised, regional flags. What makes us in Northern Ireland so much more “British” than the Scots, English or Welsh that we don’t need a proper local one?
Are these people ashamed to be from Northern Ireland or Northern Irish (as well as British)? What would they use at Northern Ireland football matches if people still didn’t use the Ulster Banner as the de facto regional flag in lieu of anything else to represent “us”?
The Ulster Banner is unlikely to get the necessary cross-community support needed to be reinstated, so we have an opportunity to create something new that (and perhaps this is a naive hope) can be flown at Stormont, City Hall, football matches and GAA matches - internationally recognised as being the symbol of “Northern Ireland”.
There are plenty of new designs which many people have been sharing at www.facebook.com/newniflag or on twitter @newniflag which do just that. A new regional Northern Ireland flag, that is accepted by all the parties or most of them, could further bed down the “Northern Irish” identity, and make people proud of where we come from and proud to fly the flag without feeling like someone is going to accuse them of being a bigot.
A Northern Ireland flag does NOT take away from the primacy of the Union Flag as the national flag of the United Kingdom.