The fascist thugs who are orchestrating the chaos would like us to believe they’re furious because a Union Jack is now flying over Belfast City Hall 17 days a year rather than 365. No, you haven’t misread that. A single Union Jack no longer flying permanently, only occasionally.
No matter that there are already thousands of Union Jacks flying across Northern Ireland every day of the week on buildings, on streets, on private homes, everywhere you look. Just drive for half an hour and you’ll see hundreds of them. But a single flag not flying so often is apparently the end of civilisation as we know it, a vicious attack on personal identity, and a valid excuse for unlimited rioting and destruction.
Ah, but it’s the symbolism, they shriek. The Union Jack symbolises everything that’s British, it symbolises our fundamental identity. Take it away and we’re nothing, our very heritage has been destroyed. Well, funnily enough, I’m British myself and I find I can assert my identity quite easily without a flag anywhere in sight.
But that’s not all. The rioters are also directly attacking the democratic institutions and politicians that made the decision about the City Hall Union Jack two weeks ago. The Alliance Party politicians who supported the decision have been subjected to a ruthless campaign of intimidation, including arson, death threats, attacks on property and verbal abuse. The flag-wavers want to smash the party and its non-sectarianism and drive it out of politics.
The senior Unionist politicians who encouraged the opposition to Belfast Council’s decision in the first place by sanctioning 40,000 inflammatory leaflets are now looking the other way and pretending the mayhem is nothing to do with them. Their reluctant and half-hearted pleas for the protests to end are having no impact whatever. The police are being equally laid-back and have arrested only a tiny number of rioters.
All the rioters are doing is wrecking their own lives and communities. The chaos is threatening thousands of businesses and jobs, driving people away from Belfast and Northern Ireland, and turning loyalism into a dirty word. But they just can’t see it. They’re convinced they’re fighting for some noble cause. Whether common sense will eventually prevail is anyone’s guess.