Take it down from your mast!

The Union flag has been flying proudly and, some would say, triumphantly over Belfast City Hall since 1906.

However, it isn’t there today.

Following a democratic vote in the council chamber the combined votes of the Alliance Party, SDLP and Sinn Fein decided that the British flag would fly over City Hall only on designated days.

“We voted for change. We voted for a City Hall for everyone” is how Sinn Fein council group leader Jim McVeigh characterised the objective of the motion.

Outside of the hall a loyalist mob gathered outside and then attacked the building, clearly to show their respect for the democratic process.

In the disturbance at City Hall two security guards and a Press Association photographer was injured.

These amateur psephologists then took their fascist road show across the city.

In rioting later in east Belfast St Mathews Catholic Church in the Short Strand was attacked.

Fifteen police officers were also injured when a mob of up to 1,000 loyalists rioted in the city centre and parts of east Belfast.

The idea of the Good Friday Agreement was that there would be a shared future and that, in working environments, a neutral space would be created.

The Union Flag has not gone from Belfast City Hall for good; it will be back on designated days.

Presumably important Royal Occasions, a notable bout of morning sickness for example.

However, ther old Norn iron is gone and it isn’t coming back.

The demographics alone will ensure that.

I am writing this in Ulster, but Donegal was never in Northern Ireland despite being further north than Belfast City Hall.

The Nine counties of Ulster in 19222 had the TMT problem (Too Many Taigs).

Thus Cavan and Monaghan were excluded for the same reason.

It is unarguable that the six county statelet was set up on a sectarian headcount in 1922.

Stability was based on repressive laws, loyalist mobs and a two to one “loyal” majority.

The underclass mob last night, I noticed that some had their faces heroically covered in Sevco scarves, are on the wrong side of history.

They fear equality.

Now in Norn Iron there is an equitable modern job market and poor Billy Rioter is up against Siobhán with a master’s degree.

In that scenario his degrees from the Grand Master don’t cut it anymore.

Like the West of Scotland there is a loyalist underclass problem.

In Belfast it is much larger, more entrenched and more threatened by political change than it is in Glasgow.

Subsequently it is currently a greater danger to the public good.

Flags matter in Belfast.

The Plantation was an aggressive land grab. People were dispossessed. It was culturally important to mark out territory.

The emblems of the invader were more powerful and important than those of the evicted natives.

This  supremacy was codified into law.

For most of my life it has been illegal in the Six Counties to fly the Irish tricolour.

The Flags and Emblems (Display) Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 was seen by many nationalist as a statutory instrument to suppress their cultural identity.

That day has gone.

Now there can be equality and respect between the traditions and that is what caused the Billy Boys to riot last night.

They fear the future.

Their Herrenvolk swagger will increasingly be replaced by the hunched shoulders of a defeated, bewildered tribe on the fringes of decent society.

In the meantime the PSNI must step up to the plate and protect the Queen’s Peace in her Britannic Majesty’s Realm.

At some point even these slow learner will realise that their day has gone.

They can bang the Lambeg as hard as they like, but it will merely sound like an echo from the past.

What the Billy klan are fighting is a future of equality and respect for everyone in those six north eastern counties of Ireland.

Hopefully their children will realise that what their parents fought for wasn’t worth The Troubles.

If they don’t then they too will be left behind by the march of human progress on this island.

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