The transformation of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall into a potentially offensive symbol that should be taken down speaks volumes about both the New Northern Ireland and the state of British national identity in the twenty-first century. The protesting and rioting of the past six weeks was triggered by Belfast city council’s decision at the beginning of December to fly the Union flag on just 19 designated days a year, such as royal birthdays, rather than on every day of the year, as had been the case over the past century. The proposal to remove the flag was tabled by Irish nationalist parties, led by Sinn Fein, and was supported by the non-nationalist, non-loyalist Alliance Party. But the discomfort with the Union flag flying in Belfast, and with other apparently problematic symbols in the New Northern Ireland, goes back farther than the council’s chat and vote in December last year.
Loyalists: the pariahs of the peace process
The rioting over the Union flag illuminates the tragedy of modern loyalism: these people are loyal to a world that no longer exists.
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