FLAG ROW

Union Flag at City Hall

Union Flag at City Hall

Now you see it…now you don’t. Today (the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge) was one of the eighteen designated days in 2013 when the union flag is being flown at Belfast City Hall. The decision last month by the Council, taken democratically, to stop flying it 365 days of the year has unleashed a wave of protest by loyalists, many of them schoolchildren. It remains to be seen how long the protests will continue. The union flag will be hoisted again on January 20th, birthday of the Countess of Wessex. This was a position agreed by the SDLP and Sinn Féin and supported by the Alliance party, which seems to have borne much of the brunt from the protests. What struck me most was the age of the protestors. Some of them not even teenagers. Most of them were born after the troubles and the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998. But in terms of religion and politics the city they are living in is very different from that of thirty or forty years ago. The police service now finds itself stretched as it tries to deal with what remains a highly-charged atmosphere, which has put Belfast back in the international headlines for all the wrong reasons. The flag was taken down again at 6:45pm according to the News Letter and so far there have been none of the scenes of rioting that happened in the Newtownards Road area over the past week.

The DCMS lists the eighteen designated days for Northern Ireland as follows:

Dates for Hoisting Flags on UK Government Buildings in 2013

9 January Birthday of The Duchess of Cambridge
20 January Birthday of The Countess of Wessex
6 February Her Majesty’s Accession
19 February Birthday of The Duke of York
10 March Birthday of The Earl of Wessex
11 March Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March)
17 March St. Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland: union flag only should be flown)
21 April Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen
9 May Europe Day
2 June Coronation Day
10 June Birthday of The Duke of Edinburgh
15 June Official Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday
21 June Birthday of The Duke of Cambridge
17 July Birthday of The Duchess of Cornwall
15 August Birthday of The Princess Royal
10 November Remembrance Day (second Sunday in November)
14 November Birthday of The Prince of Wales
20 November Her Majesty’s Wedding Day
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