Flags, a death and some unanswered questions


First, a man is dead, so our thoughts and prayers should be with his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam  – May he rest in peace. 

The man in this case was 68-year-old Oswald Bradley, who drowned while trying to remove two Irish tricolours from an island near Bessbrook. Prior to the Irish flags a Union flag had been placed there, and today’s news suggests that Oswald may have intended to remove the Irish tricolours and replace them with a Union flag once again. The Irish flags had been there for some time and several groups, including Sinn Féin, had called for them to be removed, since they were likely to prove divisive in a mixed community and raise tensions.

There are a few loose threads in this story that haven’t been tied up by anyone from any of the political parties, or for that matter by the police. Is it a fact that there was a Union flag in place before it was taken down and replaced by two Irish tricolours? Because if there was, it seems likely that its presence would have promoted division and tension, as did the Irish flags.  Why has no one pointed this out – or was there never a Union flag there in the first place? And if there was, why did politicians not speak up?

Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionist Party was on BBC Radio Ulster/ Raidio Uladh this morning speaking up. When it was pointed out to him that among others, Sinn Féin had called several days ago for the removal of the tricolours, he conceded that this was true but that “unfortunately their words had not been matched by action”. Is Danny suggesting that Sinn Féin should attend to matters affecting community relations in the Bessbrook area? If the Irish tricolours were having a divisive effect, which seems likely, surely it was the job of the PSNI to get into a boat, sail to the island and remove the flags? Just as they should remove all flags of all kinds from  trees, lamp-posts, bonfires and other inappropriate places which merely degrade the flags in question.

The final point that appears unclear is whether Oswald Bradley intended to replace the Irish flags with a Union flag. If he didn’t intend to do so,  he was performing the police’s work for them and it cost him his life. If he was carrying a Union flag with which to replace the Irish flags, his death is all the more poignant, in that he believed a deed which would add to divisions between people in the ares was worth risking and in the end losing his life for.

The flag hysteria, everyone said, would end eventually with someone losing his or her life. Few can have imagined it would occur in the manner it did.

39 Responses to Flags, a death and some unanswered questions

  1. Tom Tom July 29, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    So can it be said, once again, that the the lack of leadership from the Unionist political bloc, failing to call for the removal of the union jack in the first instance because it could prove divisive has now set off a sequence of events that has seen a pensioner, Oswald Bradley, lose his life?

    Time for leadership, a phrase which continuously falls on deaf ears and muted vocals.

  2. Am Ghobsmacht July 29, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    I am shocked at the capacity of people like Kennedy to continually shock.

    “unfortunately their words had not been matched by action”. What would he say if SF did indeed get on your hypothetical boat and take the flags down?

    Do you know something, I nearly think it would be worth SF’s while to do so, just to further make the unionist politicians look even more uncompromising.

    I say pay ‘legitimate’ Russian and Ukrainian business men to go around NI and remove every flag from every lamppost and tree in NI (The UDA wouldn’t want to upset their business partners…)

  3. boondock July 29, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I cant recall Danny Kennedy ever calling for Union flags to be removed or more to the point removing them himself from contentious areas if thats what he expected SF to do. The event is a tragedy but lets hope it might finally get politicians here and the PSNI motivated to do something about the fleg mess although I doubt it. Note well SF wanted theses flags removed and it was widely reported in the press a couple of days ago. Compare that with say the ormeau road a few weeks back and Unionist politicians failure to even admit there was a problem.

  4. Iolar July 29, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Grasta ó Dhia air.
    The politicians who have led gullible people up hills, into prisons and onto the streets have questions to answer over the misuse of flags and symbols.

  5. pointis July 29, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    You don’t have to scrape the surface too far to see the mindset of most unionists here. It is ok to fly a union flag in a mixed area but not a tricolour! After all a tricolour is divisive and nationalists should know their place!

  6. paddykool July 29, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I would wish no ill-will on any family , especially at a time of bereavement, but this whole thing strikes me as stunningly banal. It is one thing for a couple of prank-filled teenager to poke the establishment’s eye by swimming out to an island to proclaim their idiocy and sense of daftness to the world , but for some old -age pensioner to do the very same , leaves me speechless….well not really. I remember the handful of students who cut the head off a statue and smuggled it home in a bag but whose careers were badly affected …one of them was studying law…it wouldn’t look too good on the CV..and an old mate who arrived home to our flat from a mad party with a set of flashing road lights that had to be covered with a blanket for weeks as they flashed to their death…
    Let’s face it , Jude ..and again on a purely sensible level …..especially in our later years…..who of of us would do it? For either flag?It takes a certain degree of mischief or foolhardiness to even think of something like this . For either the tricolour -carrying swimmers or their elderly counterpart to buy the thing , plan the dubious deed and then carry it out, lets all the world know that someone has too much time on their hands. I hope the poor man was not suffering from dementia…..that is a possibility too. As someone who has never had any desire to buy or fly a flag of any colour , I am in the end mystified anyway.
    I used to wonder the same when i schlepped home from work in the wee hours, bleary-eyed and knackered…only too glad to get home to my family..and bed…. at the difference between my working- life and those who had the time to go out killing and rioting and generally wasting all of their precious time on nonsense and thuggery..
    This flags thing has been allowed to get way out of hand in Northern Ireland anyway.It’s like a mad addiction now.if we had politicians and police worth a damn , there would be a statement made to STOP all this bullshit and start to respect who we are and our differences.Flags and all .What kind of a mad world are we living in that we are even having a debate about this.?

  7. Patrick J Dorrian July 29, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    Perhaps, at the time of entering the water, Oswald wasn’t 100% competent, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to swim in cold water carrying a flag. The shock of the cold water may have caused a shock to the heart. On wonders why he didn’t use a boat. Surely one of his neighbours would have loaned him one. The Pm will state the cause of his demise.

  8. ben madigan July 29, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Sincere condolences to Mr Bradley’s family on his tragic death.
    Apart from the questions Jude has raised about the presence/absence of a prior Union Flag and whose responsibility it is to take flags down (lot of buck passing there – it is not at all clear it is the PSNI’s job) I have a few other questions:
    Why did Mr Bradley not go out in a boat?
    What prompted him, an elderly pensioner, to attempt a swim?
    According to the Guardian
    ” Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) have confirmed that one of its members Ozzy Bradley died in Bessbrook pond.
    He had been trying to remove the two Irish flags from the island in the religiously mixed village near the border with the Republic.
    Willie Frazer, Fair’s founder, said: “Ozzy, who worked tirelessly for victims in the area, attempted to remove two Irish tricolours from an island in the town’s pond. The two Irish tricolours had been reported and indeed they should have been removed but were not”.
    Why were the proper authorities (whoever they are in this case) not given time to act?
    “Regrettably Ozzy was then forced into taking matters into his own hands and tragically died as a consequence”.
    Who or what “forced” Mr Bradley “into taking matters into his own hands”?
    Who or what ever forced any Loyalist into taking matters into their own hands instead of leaving them to the proper authorities ?

  9. Perkin Warbeck July 29, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Dan is not a happy man. That is, Danny Kennedy of the UUP. Every time one reads one of his pronouncements (frequent, very) he effortlessly exudes unhappiness the way a rose effortlessly exudes perfume or indeed a skunk exudes stink..

    Indeed, as much or if not more than many others, Danny K contributes to the view which we down here in the Free Southern State have of the Wee Six as being ‘grim UUP there, lad, grim as Grimbsy itself’.

    Now, leaving aside both the unfortunate conjunction of the names Kennedy and Oswald in this latest tragedy and also, the uncomfortable analogies with ‘Niamh Chinn Oir’ of legend,, the Gaelic Goldilocks who acted as a siren to lure unsuspecting testosterone types to the island ‘paradise’ of Tir na nOg/The Land of Eternal Youth, one is understandably anxious to cheer Danny K up.

    And in fact, one can think of no better way to cheer him UUP than to invite him down here to the Free Southern State. Not sure whether he has ever been here before in his life – it is after all a full hour and a bit’s drive away – but all the indications are that he hasn’t and so, would be in for a shock of the most pleasant variety. For, far from being the Tir na nOgre than he and his fellow Unionists have been led to believe,

    In fact, Dublin is in fact a de facto Unionist city.

    Consider the following de factos from the very recent past:

    1. At a hockey international in UCD last week the national anthem (or antrim as it is known in certain barrios of uneven postal numbered Dublin, or tantrum, in even numbered postal numbered Dublin) for the home team was played: ‘Ireland’s Call’. Now, leaving aside the musical freight which the tune carries – there are those unkind enough to suggest that it is called thus because it should never be sung except when wearing a caul – it is indubitably the national anthem, much as hockey is one of the games of those two cohorts of a divided Ireland which will be the Bostick that will eventually glue us all together: the Protestant Unionist and the Castle Catholic. Not for nothing is hockey called ‘Protestant hurling’.


    2. Danny K will be as delighted as he will be amazed to discover that there are not one but two C of I Cathedrals on the banks of the LIffey. Both splendidly appointed and excellently positioned and smack bang in the middle of the Tourist Trail. As against that the one RC Cathedral – well, actually a sorry Pro-Cathedral, but this is not the time to go into that- is locked away, out of sight, far from any Tourist Trail, in a pokey little side street, like she was some deranged old hag of an aunty with too much rouge of her wrinkly face, gin on her breath, and who was now paying for the sins of her mispent middle age as a bawdy house madame. But enough of that Eire-sized embarrassment.

    Instead, turn one’s mind to more wholesome matters where, only yesterday, there was a touching and most poignant ceremony in St. Patrick’s C of I Cathedral in memory of the selfless IRISHmen who fought and died from 1914 to 1918 for their King and C. not for a kettle of stinking fish like what the rag tag and bobtail1916 rebels had on offer, but rather, at the going doing of the sun and at the rising of the moon, for the dream in a herdman’s hut or something, as the man said.


    One could go on literally all day listing these factos but one more will suffice for a politician of such acuity as our putative visitor.:

    3. In The Unionist Times of no later than today, this transcendently resplendent letter appears: ‘Remdond would lament the horrors of the First World War and regret its necessity. Pearse described the First World War as the most sublime and glorious in European history’. Now, what our visitor from UUP there would notice in particular would be the author of this letter: Seamus Murphy, SJ from Chicago. No product of a smelly CB school for ‘Paddy Stinks and Mickey Muds’ this far-seeing author with the right-minded mind.. Our visitor too will note how redolent that phrase ‘regret its necessity’ – indeed, Redmonditely redolent, is – of Prime Minister (let’s call a s. a spade) Enda Kenny’s response to the Gaza deaths: ‘not satisfactory’.

    Having perused the above one is quietly confident that our visitor from UUP there will, as soon as he stands on loyal Liffeyside, not have to move with a quack and a waddle or think himself an ugly duckling but rather experience his very own Danny K moment and, in a flurry of eiderdown, shriek aloud: ‘G’wan……I’m a swan’ !

    Mine’s a wee Bush.

    • Jude Collins July 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      I have to respond to this, even though I’m in a hotel in Alicante and would murder…No, no, sorry, begging harmful interpretation – I could do serious damage to a beer – despite this, I must take time to tell you that I read your comment aloud to the present Mrs C and it took about fifteen minutes, such was the necessity to break off amid shrieks of merriment. Quality stuff, Perky (I hope you don’t find this familiar form of address impertinent – or even imperkinent?). As the bishop said to the actress,do keep it up…

      • Perkin Warbeck July 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

        Hola, Maestro Blog Jude y Senora Collins corriente y muy perceptiva !

        Saludos cordiales,,

        El Perkinillo.

        • Jude Collins July 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

          Jeezzzzzz – that’s another ten minutes laughing our ageing asses off. Fortunately we are sustained by beer and wine respectively…

    • Micheal July 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      As always Perkin, absolutely brilliant!

  10. RJC July 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    A tragedy and a pointless waste of life, and shame on Danny Kennedy for attempting to make political capital out of it.

    Whether this sad incident proves to be the tipping point with regards flag flying here remains to be seen. The whole issue around flags remains incredibly vague. Is the practice of hanging flags from lamposts, trees, roundabouts etc illegal? Can the PSNI do anything about it? Will the PSNI do anything about it? Should we just have a referendum on the matter? Enough is enough.

    • paddykool July 29, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

      Jeezis ..the Mighty Perk managed to involve the even mightier Danny..”The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!”…Kaye !!! Now we’re getting somewhere !! How is this even possible on our wee planet?

    • Páid July 29, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      As far as I am aware its not illegal to put Union Jacks up but its illegal (breech of the peace, I think) to attempt to take them down

      • RJC July 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

        So putting them up doesn’t breach the peace, yet taking them down does?

        Only in ‘are wee country’ eh?

      • Micheal July 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

        This is actually true and beggars belief how Loyalist gets away with taking the ragged, soiled ones down off the dirty ol lamp posts after having them up for a year, but its culture! good God don’t forget its culture!

  11. ANOTHER JUDE July 29, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Had the unfortunate Mister Bradley been attempting to remove two Union Jacks I have no doubt his image would have been placed on a bonfire and I have no doubt Danny Kennedy would have said nothing.

    • Paddy everton July 29, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      We’ll put, Jude the second. Indeed as I passed the roundabout coming back into Newry tonight, I passed a plethora of loyalist flags of many varieties and wondered just why Danny had nothing to say about them. Given the fact that Newry is such a predominantly republican city one would suppose that someone might have found this display offensive? Will the PSNI now remove them before another tragedy unfolds? I think not.

      • RJC July 29, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

        Absolutely. As you rightly say, there are far more Loyalist flags in Newry than there are tricolours – that’s Newry which has a close to 90% RC population. Let’s not pretend that ‘both sides are as bad as each other’ when it comes to flags.

        The sticking point for Unionist ‘politicians’ (and their unelected OO representatives) in any talks with seems always to be Flags/Marching/The Past. Is it possible to separate these things, and to deal with each of them individually? How many people actually enjoy seeing the place covered in flags?

  12. Wolfe tone July 29, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    If willie Frazier hadn’t made a song and dance about the Italian tricolour in the school playground a couple of years ago then perhaps this unfortunate might not have felt the need to make a song and dance about the tricolours in the pond. Every action has a reaction.

  13. Micheal July 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    I think its worth making the point here and a very sharp point it is too, the Unionist parties walked out on this issue weeks ago and have up until now refused to make any steps to sort it out. Although my condolences are wholeheartedly with Mr Bradley’s family and friends I can’t push from my mind the feeling that this may have been prevented should the Unionists have taken the responsibility upon themselves (and quite rightly so) to sort this mess out in the days before the Ardoyne parade (apologies for bringing it up).

    It was make perfectly clear by Sinn Fein days ago that the Tricolours should not have been erected on the island and they were adamant that having Tricolours in such a place insults not only the flag but the people who call it their own. I also get the feeling that with enough pressure from Sinn fein and I have no doubt it would have come, these contentious Tricolours would have been removed.

    Having wee Willie Winkie (sore head) claiming Mr Bradley as one of his own has me thinking that Mr Bradley was put up to this but obviously I have no evidence to prove such an allegation. Either way I hope this sparks something off in regard to the ‘fleg’ issue because as many people have said from the start “this will end in a death” and here we see this come to be.

    I have always been firmly of the opinion that if the Tricolour was free to be flown on certain days of the year the ‘people’ who erected the ‘divisive’ and oh so dangerous Tricolours would not really have a reason to do so. Obviously this can never happen as anyone who would dare to fly a Tricolour at any time of the year in the wee North would been dealt the swift justice of having their car and or house burned out. After all how dare Nationalists attempt to celebrate their culture.

  14. ANOTHER JUDE July 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    The problem lies with the Unionist mindset, they walked out of talks. TALKS. Any attempt to `fix` the issues of flags/marching/the past will, unfortunately fail, because the most revered day in loyalist minds is the twelfth of July, a day full of……flags/marching/the past. It`s like an alcoholic who will make a token effort to give up drink, as long as he can still drink.

  15. Ryan July 29, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    SF calling for Tricolours to be removed. Unionist politicians refusing to even acknowledge theres a problem when it comes to Union flags flying on lamp posts, trees or where ever, especially in mixed areas, that cause division and which were put up with the sole intention of marking territory. Many of the problems in our six county failed sectarian state is due to Unionism refusing to see others as equals and their unwillingness to accept there is no more “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People”.

  16. nile July 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    POIGNANT? I think it’s time for someone to spit the dummy and ask a few questions about the whole charade that this has turned into.
    A pensioner who was not physically fit climbs into a lake under the influence of alcohol at five o’clock in the evening with a flag in his possesion (some said that he was carrying it between his teeth…)
    You can paint a turd, but it’s still a turd, and that’s what this whole story is.
    Which parties walked out of talks a few weeks ago? The same parties that are tripping over themselves to pay tribute to this man in a cheap attempt to score votes.
    Who are the editors responsible for the guff that is pouring out of all major news outlest? A better line of ‘reporting’ (or what passes for it in the sick counties) would have been a RENEWAL of the warning of the dangers of swimming in such areas and under such circumstances. Coverage on the UTV is particularly nauseating. One would think that we have lost someone of importance.
    I assume that the PSNI have questioned everyone who was in the area at the time. Was a certain Mr W. Frazer present? Did anyone goad this man into carrying out his foolish act?
    We should only pity Mr Bradley for his bitterness. We should only highlight his death as a warning to others of the stupidity of his actions.

    • giordanobruno July 30, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Did anyone goad him?
      Well I suppose the idiots who stuck the tricolour out there goaded him.
      And yes it seems quite poignant to me for a man to die in such a futile way.
      If he died in an act of violence or risking the lives of others I could understand your lack of sympathy,but as it is you are the one who seems bitter.

      • nile July 31, 2014 at 5:33 am #

        By your thinking then anyone could be to blame: those who are responsible for the lack of progression, those who put up the flag, those who signed the GFA and SAA…ad infinitum. What you see as biterness is actually frustration.

        • giordanobruno July 31, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

          We could spread the blame around easily.
          First and foremost people are responsible for their own actions. Dig a bit more and their actions are influenced by others, leaders,opponents parents, God, and so on ad infinitum.
          I am simply noting how many comments here were happy to blame this unfortunate man himself or loyalists putting their flags up or Unionist leaders, yet strangely miss out the other idiots with their tricolour planting antics.

      • boondock July 31, 2014 at 8:11 am #

        Idiots correct but goaded him? Why is it we are not having rabid Republicans dying on a daily basis to try and take down the multitude of Union flags that litter our wee country. Unionist politicians double standards over the flag issue is becoming rather tiresome. On a recent trip from Donegal town to my home in Belfast. A journey of some 2 hours and 15 minutes I counted 3 Tricolours in Omagh and an unrecognisable green suppossed Republican flag all part of the same display/commemoration, contrast that with the literally hundreds of Union flags, old defunct Stormont Banners, not to mention assorted orange order, British milatary, Israeli and Paramilatary flags. I wasnt even counting the miles of bunting everywhere either but I guess those 2 Tricolours on that island were the tipping point.

        • giordanobruno July 31, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

          I’m not too sure what your point is.
          I agree 100% about all the endless flags and bunting. A waste of space and frequently intended to be provocative.
          That doesn’t change the facts in this particular case, when this man clearly reacted (stupidly) to a provocation by the stupid actions of others.
          So yes for him they were the tipping point.

      • Pointis July 31, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

        Gio, you are being deliberately provocative with you statement “the idiots who stuck the tricolour out there goaded him”.

        I would not condone the flying of flags to Mark out territory as we see each year around the twelfth but your statement would certainly give the impression that you have an insight of the motives of those who placed the tricolours in the tree and that they knew that it would inspire this man to react in a certain way.

        If you are making a guess as to the motives of the flag raisers then it is an unreasonable one as it is most unlikely that those people would have known that this man would react and that he would react in this way. I would hazard a guess that those who put the flags up were probably youngsters unlike those old enough to drive the cherry pickets to raise the flags on lamp posts which scour the welcoming image of our towns.

        • giordanobruno July 31, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

          Putting the flag out there was a provocative act, just like so many other flags are flown here in provocation.
          Provocative acts provoke people.
          Of course they couldn’t have known the outcome I’m not saying that at all.
          But they played their part and I hope they reflect on that.

          • Pointis August 1, 2014 at 9:42 am #

            Are you suggesting that an Orange Order Hall by flying a Union flag is provoking Nationalists? Therefore should the hall be attacked the Order would “have played their part and should therefore reflect on that”.

          • giordanobruno August 1, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

            Come off it!
            I am agreeing (for once) with Sinn Fein, when Micky Brady said ” the flags could be considered by some as “overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening”
            I understand there had been a Union flag placed on the same island previously. If that is the case I would see that as equally provocative.
            A flag on an Orange Hall is a different situation as you well know
            Context is important.

          • Jude Collins August 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

            I agree that the tricolours clearly were what provoked this man to do what he did, or tried to do. But if republicans/nationalists were to react to the number of Union flags on display here, there and everywhere, they’d have no time to eat their dinner, such would their sense of continual provocation be.

          • giordanobruno August 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

            Sadly on this occasion a provocative act was reacted to, ending in tragedy for a family.
            Personally if I never see another flag, provocatively placed or not, I will be quite happy.

    • nile July 30, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      In my rush to go spouting my opinion everywhere i neglected to offer my depest condolences to the family of Mr Bradley. Apologies, and RIP.

  17. Anne July 31, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Condolences to his family……How very embarrassing for them.