Flying the flag
Flying the flag

By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division.”

A quotation from the Good Friday Agreement section on Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity.

Of course there’s no point in quoting it to the DUP because they revile the GFA. They won’t even call it the Good Friday Agreement.

They prefer the title ‘Belfast Agreement’ despite the fact that their queen chose to mark the 10th anniversary of the GFA by visiting their ‘pravince’ in Holy Week, thereby recognising the nationalist position that the date of the GFA is a movable feast, Good Friday, and not April 10.

No matter. The DUP will not be recognising April 10 either.

No point in quoting the St Andrews Agreement to them either because they say that’s a deal between Dublin and London and nothing to do with them despite the fact that Annex A of the St Andrews Agreement concerning the ministerial code, the formation of the executive and ministerial responsibility was for all practical purposes written by and for the DUP.

The DUP is not even embarrassed that the whole St Andrews Agreement does not alter any of the fundamentals of the GFA but is nothing more than a fig leaf to cover the party’s duplicity.

So it is that the DUP continue to give their supporters the bizarre injunction, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say”. The performance of Peter Robinson recently in Westminster has been a classic example of this attitude.

In contravention of the spirit and letter of the GFA, which of course he rejects, he chose to display his flag-waving credentials to encourage the coat-trailing, pavement-painting rabble among his supporters.

Poor Gordon Brown, increasingly desperate to establish his ‘British’ credentials to an English electorate which is about to turf him out at the next election, has been talking nonsense about flying the union jack all year - except in Norn Irn. How could he advocate otherwise since it flies, if you’ll pardon the word, in the face of the GFA?

In full knowledge of this fact Peter Robinson asked what must rank as one of the stupidest questions ever heard in the House of Commons - and that’s saying something. Robinson asked Jack Straw why the plans to fly the union jack wouldn’t include the north and then, wait for it, “Does he believe that the flag may not be universally cherished in Northern Ireland?”

Ah no. Surely not? Does Peter believe that? Are all the happy fenians in Ballymurphy and Creggan and Coalisland not only dying to buy union jacks and fly them every day?

Jack Straw briskly slapped down Robinson’s pathetic intervention with the contempt it richly deserved. “The reason for the government’s decision is obvious and it is not the one that the honorable gentleman mentions.

As everyone knows, the two communities in Northern Ireland have been seriously divided.”

Does Robinson not know that? Maybe not. After all, this is the guy who is about to become First Minister and operate an Agreement he doesn’t agree with, never supported and wants to get rid of because he doesn’t see the need for it. He wants to abolish what he calls compulsory coalitions.

Obviously in the alternative universe Robinson inhabits there should be no recognition of diversity, no recognition that he does not live in Britain where poor beleaguered Brown wants to fly his flag but in a part of Ireland where 44 per cent of the electorate vote for parties that want to fly another flag.

On the other hand, despite Jack Straw’s evident contempt and impatience with Robinson’s posturing, don’t assume you can trust a British politician any more than a DUP one.

As Brown’s back-benchers grow more and more insolent and cocky in their disobedience of him and his majority shrinks dangerously small, don’t be surprised if he comes calling on the nine DUP MPs to help him out.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News