I LIVE in east Belfast literally just off the Lower Newtownards Road.
All intelligent people know these Union Flag protests and riots were triggered by circulation of those inflammatory leaflets targeting the Alliance Party – the culprits then ran behind their desks and hid there ever since because they provoked a more severe reaction than they anticipated.
Despite repeatedly trying with numerous people in the district, I’ve been unable to unearth a single rational or justified explanation as to why they perceive issues of ‘cultural identity’ are at risk; I don’t accept flying the flag the same days as in the rest of the UK is a detriment and likewise reject it’s unnecessary for us to know whether our forces of law and order were involved in cold-blooded murder and/or orchestrated murders by terrorists. I’ve come to the conclusion, the real issue(s) within the community is a complete disconnect with elected representatives and, in particular, long-term failures by the latter to adequately explain the necessity to implement GFA (Good Friday Agreement) changes intended to help promote a genuine, stable and harmonious future between two terribly divided communities. I lived through the worst of the Troubles and wouldn’t wish the same upon these gullible, ill-educated young recreational rioters whose futures would be better served if their bitter and twisted parents ensured they were at home doing school study activities.
What we need in the immediate term is Peter Robinson to be seen to be taking action and making decisions of whatever type local government deem necessary. As Jackie McDonald said, “people need to start being honest” and tell people the limited flag flying days isn’t going to be altered without an agreement with nationalists or potentially until after the next election.
In the long term we need to progress building an honest shared future or eventually we’re going to implode again. The real starting point for me is, we need to agree a new national flag and maybe our own anthem which can be owned and celebrated by all of the people of Northern Ireland. But most importantly – as was long ago advocated by the late David Ervine, we all need to start properly discussing our true national/country identity as pertains to all the people of Northern Ireland; all UK citizens are British subjects but whereas these are the English, the Welsh and the Scots, none of these describe the national/country identity of Northern Ireland unionists.
The plain and simple fact is, every person born in Northern Ireland is Northern Irish... we’re not ‘Ulstermen’ because that isn’t a country but rather a province of a yesteryear’s all-Ireland entity that no longer exists.
George, East Belfast