Link: Belfast Telegraph
The Alliance Party is the only non-sectarian party in Northern Ireland. Belfast no longer has a majority for the Unionists (it used to), and there aren’t enough nationalists to form a majority on the City Council. Councillors are part-time local politicians; most of them will attend a couple of meetings a week and do a full-time job as well.
Belfast City Hall flies the Union Jack every day. Most councils on the British mainland only fly the flag on flag days (17 days a year: birthdays of senior royals, Queen’s official birthday, the national day of the country they are in - ie St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Coronation Day, Commonwealth Day, etc. The day that TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby is born will be an extra flag day)
The nationalist parties pushed for the Union Jack not to be flown - they see it as the flag of the colonial power. The unionists want to keep it up every day. Alliance brokered a compromise to only fly on flag days, and went with the nationalists to support it, and then voted with the unionists to stop the nationalists going beyond that.
The unionist parties accused Alliance of wanting to “rip” the flag down, made comparisons to the flag going down in the Falklands when they were invaded by Argentina, and generally whipped up as much hatred as possible.
The result: threats of violence, attacks on people’s homes, mass protests. Individual Alliance councillors have been literally besieged in their homes, have had windows smashed. One has already fled her home for a police safe house.
Over changing the days that flags are flown on City Hall.
Quick primer on Northern Ireland for those who have forgotten, or are too young.
Ireland became independent of Britain in 1922. At the time, the majority of people in the north were protestants and favoured retaining the union with Britain (so they are Unionists). Six counties in the North were carved out of Ireland and kept as part of Britain. This is Northern Ireland. In 1922, about 2/3 of the population was Protestant (mostly Presbyterians) and loyal; about 1/3 was Catholic (they mostly favour the Irish Republic, and are known as nationalists or republicans). Today, that’s more like 50-40, with about 10% being non-religious (and a tiny fraction following other religions). It’s had negligible immigration in the last century, so is virtually 100% white.
Northern Ireland had it’s own parliament until 1972, but it was gerrymandered by the unionists. There were Civil Rights marches by the catholic minority in the sixties, which turned into violence. The British Army was sent in as peace-keepers and got dragged into fighting the war. In 1972, the NI Parliament was abolished, and Direct Rule was imposed from London. The Troubles, from 1967 to 1997, killed 3,254 people.
A compromise peace now means that the NI Parliament is back, isn’t gerrymandered, and there is a government shared between the most hardline of the Unionist parties (the DUP) and the representatives of the Republican ex-terrorists (Sinn Fein). If you can imagine Likud and Hamas in coalition to keep Fatah and Labor/Kadima out of power, then that’s what Northern Ireland looks like. And yes, it’s every bit as weird as that analogy makes it sound.