AS a loyal unionist, I do not wish my Britishness to be diluted. I am aware that as part of the peace process I would accept and expect equality of respect for both British and Irish identities to be a fundamental part of the new normality.
As a young man growing up, I habitually “scarpered” from the cinema before The Queen was played, not out of any disloyalty but rather in resentment of someone telling me how to be loyal.
If I resented that act, imagine how a non-unionist must have felt! Happily, those days are gone, but some anachronistic mindsets remain, as seen recently in our streets in the flag protests.
Nationalist politicians have asked that in a spirit of equality our public buildings should display either both flags (Union Flag and Tricolour) or none.
I agree. I believe that the decision to allow the Union Flag to fly on Belfast City Hall, as brokered by the Alliance Party, is a generous and decent compromise with which few can seriously argue.
Unfortunately, those few that do argue, do so not by reasoned debate or legitimate protest but rather by unlawful and damaging means – damaging not just to the wider community but particularly to their own community.
In doing so they make me want to be less British, if that makes me less like them.
They will not change the decision on flag flying, partly because they have so alienated the majority of the unionist community whose help they need.
During 2011-12, I enjoyed a very British Royal Wedding, a triumphantly British Olympic Games and my Queen was joyously welcomed by the people of the south of Ireland, winning hearts and minds wherever she went.
Indeed it was hardly a better time to feel unionist and British. The only thing to undermine my sense of British identity is the unwelcome antics of these flag protestors. Please ask them to think again.