Would we really by that different if we were asked to take down the tricolour?

It’s funny how perceptions change. When I was a teenager, I saw a photo of a Garda and a member of the RUC standing side by side at some joint border exchange. What struck me was how well equipped the RUC man was, with an earpiece and throat mike and flack jacket and Heckler and Koch MP5 machine gun. The Garda, on the other hand, had a uniform that didn’t seem to fit very well, no weapon, and an aul walkie-talkie  around his neck with a worn leather band. It was very clear looking at the picture which one came from the wealthier country with its shit together.

These days, it’s all change. Even now, amidst the recession, we in the south still, since the days of the tiger, peer down at the north as our poor backward cousins. When DUP people attempt to claim that they, that is the UK, have bailed us out, we respond that no, actually, the English bailed us out, as they do to you everyday. But our real eye-rolling is reserved for the loyalists we see strutting about in recent times waving union jacks. The strutting, the put-on manliness mixed with beer belly mixed with an anti-intellectual thuggishness which makes them think that signs in Ulster Scots are in Irish or that the Italian flag is actually the tricolour, that’s what we, in many instances, choose to see.

It suits us too, because it allows is to be the reasonable modern country which doesn’t do sectarian headcounts or wave bibles too much (any more) and snigger at Alabama-on-the-Bann getting all upset about a flag.

But just count how many union jacks you see on the way to work. Last week, I saw plenty of tricolours, EU, German, and American flags, and even one Chinese flag. But not one British flag, despite the fact that we have more British tourists and trade more with the UK than anyone else. We happily fly the flags of all our friends and allies outside hotels and business, yet aside from official state events, how often do you see the union jack? And we think they’ve got a problem with a flag?

But it’s not our flag, some say. True. But neither is the Chinese or US or German, but we have no problem flying them. It is their flag, and if we were asked to only fly our flag 15 times a year over Leinster House we’d get very indignant. Ah, but they have to recognise that they live in a shared community, where the union jack is offensive to some. Again, true. But if those same people, whom we apparently wish to join us in a United Ireland at some stage said the same to us about the tricolour…

Put it another way: If Stormont offered to fly the tricolour for 15 days a year in return for Leinster House flying the union jack for the same time, as an act of mutual respect for both cultures, is there anyone who does not think we’d have all-sorts roaring and shouting about it down here, screaming “treason!” and “is this what the men of 1916,etc”, including a bunch of gurriers with tricolours wrapped around them, loaded up Dutch Gold and battling with the Public Order Squad, that is, in between robbing Champion Sports?  

The 15 day rule is as reasonable a compromise as any, and I’m certainly not condoning a bunch of yobs taking over public streets and threatening struggling businesses and people going about their day. But we down here might want to be a little less sneery at loyalists for getting upset about a piece of cloth we refuse to even fly.

7 thoughts on “Would we really by that different if we were asked to take down the tricolour?

  1. I will, next time I’m in town. Tallaght is not neccesarily a bastion of what might be termed “progressive” (a term I hate, by the way) views when it comes to “da Brits” if we’re being honest.

    I was in London just before Christmas. I didn’t see swathes of Irish flags hung from every building if I’m being honest. There were some of course, as there are in Dublin, but they weren’t hung out over every pub/club/hotel.

    As I said, I’ll get back to you with my named “commercial premises.”

  2. South west Dublin. You need to reread the para about hotels as you have misunderstood it. More to the point, perhaps I am wrong. Name three commercial premises in Dublin that fly the union jack so I can post them in the piece with my correction.

  3. Where do you work?! Which hotels in Dublin don’t have Union Flags on them but do have Chinese and German flags?! This is a poorly researched attempt at a “people in glass houses” argument.

    As an aside, the reason why the Union Flag wouldn’t be flown over government buildings in the Irish state’s capital city is the same reason why the tricolour isn’t flown over government buildings in London. The reason why the flying of the Union Flag in Northern Ireland is contentious is because a large minority of the population up there view themselves as Irish, and not British.

    Unionist/Loyalist (pious) outrage about the rule of the majority being respected in Belfast City Council smacks in the face of the fundamental reason for the existence of an Irish land border with the UK.

  4. Your first paragraph would stand better with a comparison with the police in England. They are unarmed, as that nation is at peace. A walkie-talkie may similarly be used for range, as the nearest colleague may often be distant, where a head mic will work only if you patrol in groups – which you do because you patrol a territory that is not at peace.
    I have seen major differences between the police equipment in Ulster and England during my life, and do not ascribe these to a difference in national wealth, hence my comment.

  5. It’s rather a long time since I lived in Ireland but I do pop back occasionally. The last time I was there – last summer – one thing struck me quite forcefully: the number of union flags I saw in and around Cork. Admittedly, things might be different elsewhere in the country, but there really were lots of them on view. I even saw a couple of kids playing football in a park who were wearing – gasp! – England football jerseys; needless to say, that would have been unthinkable when I was a lad.

    All anecdotal, of course, but I suspect that the aversion to overt signs of Britishness in Ireland is quickly becoming a happily distant memory.

  6. Pingback: #Flegs: “That’s what we, in many instances, choose to see…” « Slugger O'Toole

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