‘Flag Debacle is a missed opportunity for Unionism’

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SIR- Firstly let me say it is right and proper that the Union flag is flown from our public buildings to mark occasions such as on designated days.

I know full well how powerful a symbol the Union flag is to the people of Northern Ireland, having served under it in the military for many years.

However I cannot help but feel that an opportunity has been missed as Northern Irelands political leaders rushed to jump on their respective sectarian bandwagons and busied themselves pouring fuel on the fires of hatred in East Belfast.

Had the leaders of Unionism not surrendered the moral high ground quite so quickly, perhaps a deal could have been worked out so the many councils in Northern Ireland which do not fly the Union Flag at all would have made a reciprocal gesture in Belfast and agreed to also fly the flag on designated days.

The actions of these so called leaders during this sorry saga is a damning indictment on our society and explodes the myth of a truly shared future.

The likeliest compromise in this situation will be a comprehensive deal encompassing all councils in a uniform way.

With the 11 council model due to be adopted in 2015 we have an opportunity to ensure that all areas are treated equally.

An agreement can be reached at Stormont between the main party leaders to ensure that local electoral mathematics doesn’t upset the political applecart again.

This will require leadership and calmer language than we’ve seen so far, but it seems to me that a compromise on flying the Union Flag on designated days can offer us the stability we crave.

The damage these protests and associated violence is doing to business and investment in Northern Ireland cannot be allowed to continue.

Our economy which was already on life support is now at breaking point.

According to recent research up to 300 jobs have been lost in Belfast alone this week, how many more must be lost before our leaders wake up to this reality?

The vast majority of law abiding, non flag waving Unionists do not support these protests and find the associated violence abhorrent, so why then do our political leaders pander to the whims of this noisy minority?

The net result of these protests will be for middle class Unionists to further disengage from the politics and politicians currently in the executive.

NI Conservatives offer a different approach, standing up for the silent majority whose voices aren’t currently being heard.

Yours, Neil McNickle,

NI Conservative Party,


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