Running an idea up the Ulster flag

By Squinter

SANDY Row LOL No.5 have decided to scrub this Saturday’s parade through Belfast. They have given two reasons for this, each of them interesting in their own way.

Firstly, they say that they decided to call it off because they had spoken to city centre traders. They don’t elaborate on this, but traders being traders, we can only assume that they don’t want the parade because parades in the city centre lose them money. Which is to say that those unionist politicians who have been claiming that loyalist protests don’t hit commerce in the city have been talking through their union jack top hats.

The second reason they give is the increased threat from “republican terrorism”. Fair enough, there have been shots fired at the police in recent days by dissident republicans and a car bomb at Vicky Square which failed to go off. And indeed if those boys keep it up they are, as Squinter’s oul’ ma used to say, going to put somebody’s eye out. But loyalist terrorism isn’t on a Christmas break, far from it, for it’s very much the case that loyalists have more to fear from loyalists with the UDA having torched the home of Tracey Coulter and the UVF having shot Jemma McGrath multiple times.

Strangely – or perhaps not strangely at all – the Sandy Row brethren didn’t deem the violence of the UDA and the UVF worthy of mention. And with almost satisfying symmetry the same unionist politicians who think closing down the town isn’t bad for business aren’t that bothered about the UDA and the UVF either, if the volume of their press releases is anything to go by.

Some scurrilous commentators are claiming that the Orange Order simply got cold feet because the Trevors are to take action against the guy whose name was on the Parades Commission form ahead of the most recent Belfast protest. The District Master, they claim, fears he’ll get his collarette felt if the parade breaches any PC determination.

Meanwhile, Richard Haass’s suggestion that everything would be fine and dandy if we could just agree on the size, shape and colour of a new ‘Northern Ireland’  fleg has not met with what you would call universal acclaim. The idea has been rejected by the Jim Allister set and warmly embraced by the gymkhana set. Jimbo won’t give it house room because he’s already got a flag, or flags; the North Down crowd see it as a neat solution to the embarrassment they feel when they go to Tuscany and the fleg protests are on CNN.

Squinter’s against it too. Surprisingly perhaps, not because he already has a flag, but because he doesn’t; not really. He knows the tricolour is the flag of the Republic and he respects that – it’s just that flags aren’t his thang, whether it’s waving them or flying them or wearing them or burning them. Add to that the fact that you can’t give a Northern Ireland flag allegiance if you don’t give allegiance to Northern Ireland and you can see that it’s not only lovers of the butcher’s apron who are cool on the new flag idea.

Nevertheless, in a spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect, Squinter can see that a new NI flag might well mean a lot to some people, and so he sat down and had a go at designing one of his own. And this flag (above right) is what he has submitted to Mr Haass for consideration. In the quadrants of the (nine-county) Ulster flag are four heroes of This Here Pravince – Jackie Fullerton, David Healy, Dame Mary Peters and Julian Simmons. There’s no denying that, whatever our take on the national question, our hearts swell with pride when these people appear on our TV screens.

Mr Haass, get ready to be impressed.

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