How to act like a half-wit

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Big question: will I weep or will I laugh?  I was on the BBC’sTalk Back a few days ago, discussing…right, you guessed it – flags. As I said on the programme, one of the pleasures of my visit to London last weekend was the train-ride from Gatwick into London. No flags. Not one on view, either on a lamp-post, a mural or a kerbstone. But back to Talkback. We were linked up with Trevor Clarke of the DUP, who is the MLA for Antrim North West. We were discussing two flags in particular – the Palestinian flag and the Irish tricolour.

These, it seems, had been displayed in the council chamber of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council (that’s Coleraine council if you don’t want to be long-winded). It was draped over a table, and behind th table sat Councillor Padraig McShane, an independent republican councillor, and councillors Darren O’Reilly and Gary Donnelly who, I gather, are not members of that particular council. With them also was their guest from Gaza, Mohammed Al-Halabi.

Trevor was pretty outraged at this stunt and condemned it as using the Palestinian visitor to play at politics. It showed, he said, scant respect for the flags.  I tended to agree with him on that one. Messrs McShane, O’Reilly and Donnelly probably had a pretty shrewd idea of what the unionist reaction would be when they released the photograph of them and their visitor sitting behind the flag-bedecked table. And predictable as ever, Trevor and Co rose to the bait.

But now we have something which I tried to question Trevor about: a new flag development. It seems that the Coleraine council were considering a motion that the Union flag should fly 365 days a year over the council premises. Well, the considering is over. The motion has been passed.

The point I made to Trevor was that flags should be treated respectfully, whether that was a flag to which you felt allegiance or a flag towards which your political opponents had allegiance. Trevor agreed, and said it was pretty cheap stuff to go flaunting the Irish tricolour in the council chamber. But what about the rumour that the Union flag be flown 365 days a year? Trevor saw no problem with that. This was Britain (which it wasn’t and isn’t – it’s Ireland. Although the north of Ireland forms part of the UK) and why wouldn’t we fly our national flag 365 days a year?

Because to do so, Trevor, is to do the very thing that Councillors McShane, Donnelly et al did: you’re using the flag to annoy your neighbours. So to that bit about respect you might want to add reconciliation: how will the flying of this flag contribute to reconciliation between people who were so bitterly divided?

The answer that Coleraine Council have given is “The hell with reconciliation”. What we have we hold. Not an inch. Suck it up, Fenians. As I pointed out, this kind of not-an-inchery is what drives us back into our trenches, back into the mud and blindness of yesteryear. If you’re faced with a flag every day of the year (Stormont, Belfast and Buck House managed to get by with around 18 designated days for flying their Union flag), you’re going to ache for a chance to shove two fingers up at the people who lord it over you. Which the republican councillors did. Which puts the score at 1-1, and when can we get round to giving the other lot a good psychological kicking? Oh I know. The Twelfth. Loads of opportunity there.

Is Trevor Clarke a grown man? I think so. Is Padraig McShane a grown man? I think so. Then when in God’s name are they both going to start acting like men who want to find ways to work together, rather than prodding each other with flagpoles and acting like playground half-wits?

18 Responses to How to act like a half-wit

  1. Emmet June 25, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    I have always noticed:the more insecure someone is about their national identity the closer they need to be to a flag they feel ‘loyal’ to. These same people also seem to feel threatened by standing near ‘foreign’ flags, they believe they may lose their cultural identity and they may become infected by a foreign identity.

    On another point geography was never a unionist strong point. I remember when Nesbitt was an impartial news presenter (ok maybe not) he got really angry with a English politician who pointed out that N. Ireland was not part of Britain. Nesbitt tried to correct the politician who looked genuinely confused by the stupidity of the news presenter.

    Few examples to prove my point: Ulster Unionists, DUP (only stand in 6 of 9 counties)
    Ulsterbus. Reference to the Province when talking about the 6 counties. I think the misunderstanding about Ulster stems from the period when Unionist thought they could exclude the whole province from the Anglo-Irish treaty. Can’t work out why the Britain error occurs or when it started.

  2. Iolar June 25, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    The abuse of flags

    Evidence will be presented to the International Criminal Court about war crimes in Gaza. The United Nations Human Rights Council released its report on Operation Protective Edge on 22 June 2015. 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed. Many were killed in their own homes. One third of those killed were children.

    The British Prime Minister is talking tough about the refugee problem at Calais. The refugee problem was created by the no expense spared aerial bombardment of Libya and other zones of international conflict.

    Flag waving in Coleraine or Twaddell Avenue is a poor substitute for thought about the bereaved, the orphaned, the maimed and the homeless innocents throughout the Middle East.

    It is a poor reflection on our civilization that we still have plenty of money for guns and bombs and no talk of armaments reform.

  3. fiosrach June 25, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Obviously,dear boy, if we are still british after 500 years then this must be britain. Otherwise we would be irish or is it northern irish. I get confused easily now.

  4. ANOTHER JUDE June 25, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Unionist politicians are obsessed with the British flag, they are like a jealous wife who has to have her husband on the phone every day just in case he doesn`t love her, which of course he doesn`t. The British do not give a hoot for them, except to use them as cannon fodder in their illegal conflicts, usually taking place in the middle east. Watching them sitting in the British commons, their face in rapture as the member for Peterborough East mentions the new train track being built in his town is embarrassing. Of course the SDLP are worse, at least the Unionists have a (conditional) devotion to their imperial masters, the stoops pretend to be Irish nationalists, although how that squares with their taking of the Oath of Allegiance is beyond me. The people who obsess with the flag are only doing it to annoy the other lot, they are not interested in reconciliation, too much like ecumenism and we all know how they regard that old chestnut.

  5. moser June 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Seen a UDA flag on a lamppost outside the gates of Finaghy library when I was in there a about two weeks ago.

  6. Perkin Warbeck June 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Funny thing, Esteemed Blogmeister, but the topic of flags was one which consumed the attention of Perkie as recently as last Sunday.

    That occurred while watching the hurling game between Limerick and Tipperary on the flatscreen (nee box). Limerick, of course, for whatever reason, holds a special place in the scheme of things for Perkie’s inner poetaster,

    Indeed, as one’s interest in what was happening on the field of play (or not) began to,erm, flag, one’s interest on the flags on the terraces where the Limerick fans were congregated began to wax.

    There was Old Glory, but not as either Uncle Sam or indeed Sam Maguire would have known it. For while everything was in place, the stars, the stripes, the colours were what marked it out: green and white. Which would be the Limerick gansey colours.

    There also was the Old Soviet flag, again in one of the Forty Shades, although Perkie only caught a fleeting glimpse of the fluttering fabric and so spotted but the sickle. Perhaps that was enough, as at that very m. in time, going forward, Limerick the home team were in the process of being hammered.

    Time was, this, erm, taking ownership of others’ flags was the prerogative of de Rebel County, de Peoples’ Republic of Cork, boy.

    Which brought to mind the first time one witnessed this phenom: back in the dim and distant while sauntering down Grafton Street, when there was goldust in the lady’s hair, and diamonds in her eyes, Perkie’s attention was momentarily distracted.

    By a book on display in the window of the late, great Eblana bookshop. While one is vague at this remove about the title of the book (perhaps it had to do with some bone or other of contetion between those two dogs of war, Eireland and the Ould Enemy) not so with the book jacket.

    The Union Jack but not as Wee Sommy would know it: while the various crosses were in position instead of the red, white and blue only the white remained in this version The red and white had been replaced by the (gulp) green and orange.

    Laugh ? Perkie’s could have cried. Which, sadly, is what he was later to do as Herself by his side – was it Whitney? was it Phoebe? – took it as a personal slight on her choice of geometric earrings. Which she just happened to be fingering at the precise moment the Green, White and Orange Union Jack jacket cover caught Perkie’s fickle fancy.

    Off she went in a female fluffy huff, never to be seen by Perkie no more. But the flag on the cover had booked in for a longer term stay.In one’s memory if not the window of the Eblana Book Shop.

    And ever since it is many a time and oft that Perkie has wondered why the Union Pat (for it is it !) had not gained wider popularity, even currency itself. Think of all those shopping bags adorned with the Union Pat not to mention the overwear, like T-shirts or underwear itself, those Y-fronts and G-strings flying, as it were, the Union Pat (shorts for Patrick or Patricia).

    (To be lowered only between dusk and dawn, or as the case may be, in Public Conveniences during daylight and nighttime both. . Hence the term: Flags of Inconvenience).

    Indeed, more thanin most epochs of our long and epochsy backstory the current epoch lends itself to the adoption of the Union Pat as our National Flag and on both sides of the Black Sow’s Dyke, if you like.

    Time to say: Up with U.P. !

    (The only party to take umbrage at the Green, White and Orange U.P. would be, one surmises, the DUP. D standing for Down with ! Which would be odd, in the extreme. After all they and what they represent have had a long enough innings now, approaching even the 100 nor our mark. Time surely for the Other Side to bat. Anything else would be a betrayal of their British heritage. The cricket. ).

    For the Union Pat is all about taking ownership or it is about nothing at all. As has been pointed out DruidShakepeare has taken ownership of a moribund dramatic tradition and injected the life-boosting needle on Non-U language into an essentially catatonic text.

    As the articulate and exhilarating Fintan O’Toole of The Unionist Times is the one who has done most to boost this much hyped hypodermic injection of the Hiberno-English a new word comes to what Perkie is still pleased to call his grey matter. A coinage to more aptly designate the green, white and orange codpieces which are now de rigeur for members and non-acting members alike of DruidShakepeare.

    U.P., depending on the member, might even be up for the, erm, coinage.Or,not.

    But there is another area of the Fintan, oops Fine Arts where the time has surely come for the hoisting of the Union Pat. That is in the field of Classical Music rather than Classical Drama. And those institutions which have specifically taken,erm, ownership are the various baroque ecclesiastical edifices known as the modestly-titled and all-inclusive. Church of Ireland Cathedrals.

    Perkie’s inner philharmonic buff knows this from the leprechaun-free Lyric FM which is as the classical music wing of RTE is known by. And the reason why the First Official Language (FOL) is so rigidly eschewed is on account of the inherent inability of FOL to deal with any other kind of kind of music, apart from that which part of its very D(flat)NA: the FOL de LOL of Diddlye-aye.

    God’s hooks, oops, Gadzooks ! Just imagine having to introduce,say, Concierto de Aranjuez de Joaquin Rodrigo or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik von W. Amadeus Mozart in (gulp) leprechaun !

    Trivialisations have been known to topple for less. There is Suversion and then there is, SubvERSEion. Two differ animals altogether, you understand, like Breen’s heifer and Breen’s bullock.

    Thus, the new all inclusive role of the the all but abandoned C of I Cathedrals: as venues for the ongoing refinement of the rug-haired kerns, as venues for Classical Music. Call them, if you will, these Cathedrals, from St. Flannan’s in Ennis, to Christchurch in Dublin to St. Canice’s in Kilkenny to St. Laserian’s itself in Leighlinbridge.

    Call them, the DruidBeethoven, the DruidHaydn, the DruidMozart,the DruidBach. Time, chaps, to take down the Union Jack and hoist in their place the Union Pat , for all those tater-eating crayturs Outside the Walls.

    Of course, just as the immutable rule of 3% / 97 % applies in another musical sense (that of the sweet vale of A.V.O.C.A.) so also does this rule apply in this instance, rigidly. Thus, that 3% of Classical Music which is known as Contemporary Classical Music (or, more technically, Creaking-gate Music) can be thoughtfully reserved for the RC;s.

    Thus, the Pro-Cathedral could be designated the DruidStockhausen for the duration.

    To finish as begun on a sporting note: the death of the hurling immortal, Jimmy Doyle of Tipperary, took place soon after the game last Sunday. The result of which would have allowed him to shuffle off the mortal coil with a smile of the Doyle dial.

    Jimmy who? Put it this way, he was one of the quartet of contemporary greats in the four main field games of the island of Ireland during the Sixties: (in alphabetical order): George Best, Jimmy Doyle, Mike Gibson and Mick O’Connell.

    A joy to be alive as a contemporary of that quarter. Each of whom was blessed with an equal dollop of sorcery in his chosen sport, whether it be, soccer, hurling, rugby or Gaelic Football.

    Yet, in a recent article in (gosh !) the Sunday Dependent by one, Tommy Conlon, an article which was as revealing as it was grovelling, only two of that ten would have qualified for inclusion in any top ten of Irish sporting greats.

    Mere GAH players being excluded from such exalted company, by definition. Mere stickfighters and bogballers need not apply.

    Trade, it is said, follows the flag and there is no doubt that the trade of both soccer, oops, football and eggchasing have followed that flag.

    Tread, as it happens is the leprechaun for ‘herd’ so perhaps it is time for such tirade-issuing herd mentalists such as T. Conlon to lead the charge to hoist the Union Pat.

  7. RJC June 25, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    So Trevor Clarke thinks this is Britain? What an utter halfwit.

  8. Freddy Mallins June 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Correct, Emmet. Another one I’ve noticed is that unionist personnel and even business leaders like to refer to Britain as GB, thereby avoiding any nomenclature that might suggest that people in NI don’t actually reside in Britain. The usual way out for them is to use the, “Mainland” phrase, which has always sounded absurd to me, given that we’re all Mjcks to our eastern cousins. The English would laugh at that reference.
    One other small one ( I’m sounding g a bit anhorakish) is our first minister’s pronunciation of the word Ireland, when he says, Northern Ireland. He says, Northern Aland, as if it’s part of Scandinavia! I believe that is a method of avoidance built up over years and now he doesn’t even think about it.
    Finally… some unionists have the temerity to castigate Nationalists when they refer to NI as The North. However these same people, as already alluded to by Emmet, keep referring to NI as Ulster!! No amount of political or geographical gymnastics can make that correct. Furthermore, those same people then go on to refer to Northern Ireland as, The Province. That being the case, where would they say people from Donegal live? Which province? Is it Munster??

  9. Ryan June 25, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Everyone knows when it comes to Unionists they have deep, deep insecurities of their national identity, they don’t feel British enough if they don’t see a Union flag every 4 minutes, as is evident in Unionist areas like the Shankill which is literally decked out in Union flags nearly all year round, especially this time of year. I’ve actually heard a few times from English visitors here who even admit to feeling intimidated by this use of their own national flag. That’s, of course, without touching on the other flags Unionists fly such as the Ulster Banner, British Army flags (that is bound to annoy “them’uns” if the Union flags don’t) paramilitary flags and to a lesser extent KKK flags.

    I read a challenge in a newspaper the other day, I think it was the Irish News, where a man challenged Loyalist Jim Wilson on his logic of flags that “both sides are as bad as each other” when it comes to flying them, which is frankly ridiculous. The man challenged Jim Wilson to come out on a drive together and for every Union flag they spotted flying Jim would have to pay 1p pence to charity and for every Irish Tricolour they spotted the man would pay £1 to charity and the man ended his article by saying that he’s very confident that Jim Wilson will be paying the most to charity by the time the drive is over.

    Maybe one way of Stormont filling in the £600 million black hole in the budget is by bringing in a “flag tax”? that’ll definitely have the executive running a surplus within a year or two…

  10. KopperbergCentral June 25, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    So given the fact you want the IRA Liecolour flying alongside the Union Jack, I take it, you will have no qualms with the Union Flag, flying on an equal basis on that EU lickspittle joint down in Dublin?

    • RJC June 25, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

      I’ve always found it never does any harm to think before you type.

    • Ryan June 26, 2015 at 2:57 am #

      Where is the demand in the 26 counties to fly the Union flag? Exactly, none exist.

    • Emmet June 26, 2015 at 8:00 am #

      I am not sure what you are referring to? Are you calling the Irish flag an IRA flag? That flag pre-dates the IRA and was supposed to be an inclusive flag. It has the colour orange which an outsider would think should appeal more to orangemen than a red, white and blue flag. I am sorry the Irish flag intimidates you and to be honest 99% of Irish people would feel no less Irish by flying a union jack in Dublin, in fact I am sure plenty of hotels have union jacks outside. I would like to know what drives your hatred kopperbergCentral? Is it fear or genuine hatred of Catholics or something else I don’t get?

  11. pointis June 25, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Yes Jude I suspect the flags in the chamber were a stunt which got the desired outcome from some hardline unionist politicians and some mainstream unionist contributors to the programme.

    And what they proved was that the Palestinian flag and the Irish flag are seen with contempt by a significant number of people living here and by extension the people those flags represent. Don’t kid yourself, if that had been a Dutch flag and a Belgian flag or Welsh flag there would have been no unionist outcry.

    Rosa Parks was seen as a troublemaker too but she also proved her point for the rest of the world!

    • ANOTHER JUDE June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Mind you Willie Frazer did get his union jack knickers in a twist over the Italian flag!! Should have gone to Spec Savers.

  12. Séamus Ó Néill June 26, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    In this weird and wonderful place ……you are a British citizen , but you don’t live in Britain… live in ” The United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland ” and as such are entitled to a ” British ” passport. You are Irish , being part of the Irish Nation and thus entitled to an Irish passport but you are not an Irish citizen. However if you move a few miles south or west , cross an imaginary line , you are now an Irish citizen , able to vote etc,etc…….you can still be a British citizen , if it floats your boat

  13. michael c June 26, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    McShane is a notorious self publicist who never got round to telling us why exactly he left SFas it was certainly not about SF’s policies at the time.

  14. Micheal June 28, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    I have found that the flying of the Union flag on every lamp post seems to signify the insecurity of nationality. I have Protestant friends who want nothing more than to get the 12th of July over with to move on with life. They don’t celebrate it nor do they want to but they do want to get on with their everyday lives with some even doing overtime at work rather than take the day off (yeah I know, weird). The funny thing is it seems to be the fact that the streets and road bedecked with flags are main roads, I have rarely seen flags on lamp posts on avenues or residential streets except for the private residences flags.

    Are these Union flags, paired on the same lamp post with UDA, UVF, YCV, UYM, UFF, RHD, RHC and various other Loyalist paramilitary flags up there to signify territory….co course they are. British national identity is something which few Loyalists seem to have confidence in these days and the literal flooding of towns with British flags just proves the point.

    The only time you’ll see the Irish Tricolour out is when the Easter Rising parade is being held on the Falls Road or on St. Patricks Day. In some areas the fact that people are afraid to flag the Irish Tricolour again points to the intimidation tactics being used by Loyalism to enforce their ‘Britishness’. They’re not so quick about taking the Irish flag off their bonfires when its flown for a few weeks leading up to the 12th but God forbid its flown on Stormont next to the British flag where it rightfully should be.