Hellfire and damnation are reigning. Since Monday there have been riots, road blocks, water cannon, death threats. Disruption and chaos have returned to Belfast and surrounding areas. Police officers have been injured, cars have been burned out, elected representatives have had themselves and their homes attacked
I’ve blogged before about how flags are very contentious in this tiny, small-minded, angry part of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Then, I was vaguely hopeful that the worst was behind us, that my children wouldn’t be exposed to the full madness that takes over this place from time to time. More fool me.
On Monday the city council voted that the union flag should not be flown over city hall every day; instead, it should be flown only on the designated days that it’s flown on other public buildings. These designated days are times of apparent special significance when status as a British city needs to be emphasised. There are 18 of these days, including the birthday of the Countess of Wessex. (She’s the wife of the Queen’s youngest son. We wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to celebrate her birthday now, would we? In truth, I can’t imagine too many in Britain being that bothered about Sophie’s birthday, but if that’s the protocol, then fair enough.)
I’d been thinking that all this trouble was about some misguided notion of parity with the rest of the UK (where the union flag is not flown daily) but I’ve decided that’s not it at all.
The rioters may be more republican than they would dare imagine: they want parity with the Countess of Wessex. If the flag flies every day, then everyone gets it for their birthday.
Now, if only they’d just said that.
You think I’m trivialising vital issues? Stopping myself from packing up the family and leaving the country by making light of trouble? Spinning my boiling rage into humour?
That too. But, the birthday issue makes at least as much sense as any other reason for the trouble.