Flags are all that Unionism has?

Druing a discussion on Slugger about the use of flags to mark out terrority in the north, regular contributor Billy Pilgrim gave a very eloquent appraisal of why he feel Unionism is so attached to its flags and banners. I thought his analysis was very thought provoking and gave an insight into the thinking of Unionism which is much closer to the truth than many would care to admit. I told his contribution was worthy of reproduction here. I do however think he's being a little harsh on Gibraltar when he likens it to "Portadown with the sun"!

Doany of the unionist posters have any thoughts on Livingstone's parting shot:

"Of course, as far as the flags issue is concerned, we're asked to believe that one's as bad as the other, when nothing could be further from the truth. A stray flag on the Shaws Road can be seen as the drop in the ocean that it is when one drives into Carrickfergus on a summer's evening. And while you'd have to drive around Twinbrook and Poleglass for half an hour before you'd find a tricolour (if indeed there are any at all), the existence of even one is enough for unionists to wheel out the big lie that West Belfast is as bad as Lisburn."

Are unionists more guilty than nationalists when it comes to the scourge of flag flying? I'd have to say that in my experience that is certainly the case - yes nationalist areas are sometimes pock-marked with tricolours but, if I may make an incredibly unscientific observation, if there was to be an ordnance survey of unofficial flag flying across Northern Ireland, unionist paraphernalia would most likely account for 90Q% plus.

I had a good-natured banter recently with a friend of mine from Gibraltar and we talked a bit about the Rock. She was olive-skinned, with dark brown eyes and a fiery temperament, and spoke perfect Spanish, yet spoke English with a norf Laandaan accent. We talked about the difficulties of maintaining an identity so at odds with the inescapable realities of geography. We talked about the eternal slight of being considered Spanish by the very English people she fundamentally sees as her compatriots. I told her another friend of mine had been there and described it as being "like Portadown with sun". Eventually she declared with a flash of strident temper: "At the end of the day, our flag is still flying over Gibraltar and that's all there is to it."

I came away thinking that, fundamentally, the flag is all they actually have. Take the flag away and there really isn't a hill of beans left that defines what it is to be a Gibraltarian. Without the flag, what's the point in continuing to resist the totalitarian logic of reality?

And when I thought about that, I felt incredibly sorry for my unionist brothers and sisters in Ireland. Nationalists don't need flags: we're of Ireland and for Ireland, so the ground beneath our feet gives us all the validation we need. Unionism on the other hand needs its flags and paraphernalia and anything that might distract from the sheer reality of this land's Irelandness.

Maybe that's why unionists have such a thing for flags, pathetic things that they are. There is nothing else.

Posted by: Billy Pilgrim at June 24, 2005 04:28 PM

No comments: