Recent events in Northern Ireland have no relation to the clichéd and rather antiquated Cliff Richards Christmas hit, but frankly they have a similarly negative effect on polite society.
Ever since the start of power-sharing at Stormont in 2007, there has been a tetchy status-quo of peace in the province. Belfast city council’s decision to not fly the union flag 365 days a year was a divisive decision, breaking the status-quo and upsetting rather a lot of people. But this was a democratic decision, taken by a majority vote in a democratically elected council. City hall isn’t even the seat of the Northern Ireland assembly, so it is clear to see why this can be considered a reasoned decision.
Personally, I don’t care if the union flag is flown at city hall or not. Therefore I feel I must disagree with the decision taken. Put simply, actions like this cause trouble. There are sections of Northern Irish society who insist on being upset by them. If nationalists Sinn Fein really believe a United Ireland is around the corner, why does unimportant symbolism matter in 2012?
The unfortunate thing, as touched upon, is that some do see it as important. From the irresponsible politicians who played tribal cards in the wake of this decision, for example DUP speaker William Hay insisting on taking part in the protests, and the disgusting actions of rioters, Northern Ireland needs a reality check.
We have full citizen rights of all other UK citizens and, if we want, never have to be anything other than British. Despite this, the day after an attempted murder on a female PSNI officer, the Democratic Unionist Party still insisted on proposing a motion to change the council’s decision. This was simply shockingly irresponsible in the wake of violence. As in the troubles before, the big parties play the communities against each other rather than acting in the interests of the entire province.
The rioters are loyalists. Who are they loyal to? I don’t know the Queen but I couldn’t see her approving.
It all rather reminds me of the reaction of some UK left wingers to the 2011 riots: that this was a response to the austerity actions of the government. It is as untrue then and is now. These rioters are, to a large degree, bored young men being led on and organised into criminality and violence by their older peers. They’re not doing it for Britain; they’re doing it for the thrill.
The message to the politicians and protesters needs to be this. Get a grip.
By Ross Graham