I speak as an American who has had high hopes for peace in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement and is troubled
by the recent upsurge in violence in the wake of the Belfast City Council's decision to restrict the display of the British Union
Jack over City Hall. With a great love of the entire Irish nation, I have understood the dreams of the Nationalist Community
to someday have a United Ireland, and see why they would want to remove what to them has been seen as a symbol of
colonialism. But to the Loyalist Community, this action is seen as an insult to their traditions, the same way the lack of government
recognition of the Irish Tricolour has been for the Nationalists.
Although the demands of Loyalists would be a return to the status quo of uninterrupted display of the Union Jack, to do so now
would obviously seem to reward violence. It was from assuming that this kind of violence could be effective towards political ends,
that a whole generation in Northern Ireland grew up never knowing peace, being caught in the crossfire between the extremists
on both sides.
What people in both communities, Nationalist and Loyalist, must ask themselves is if the love of their own traditions is stronger than
their disdain for the others. Without the visibility of the Union Jack, the Loyalist Community will be unhappy. Without the visibility of
the Tricolour, the Nationalist Community will be unhappy. Is the best compromise that the Belfast City Council can come up with really
for everyone to be unhappy?
With the need for a resolution to this present cirsis, there is for the first time the opportunity to propose that the symbols of one
community be given official recognition without taking away the symbols of the other. I propose that the Nationalists could finally have
the chance to have the flag of the Republic of Ireland fly above Belfast City Hall, if they are willing to grant the Loyalists their wish to
have the flag of the United Kingdom returned. The Tricoulor, green white and orange, was originally meant to symbolize the unity of
the different traditions in Ireland. Some extremists now see this flag as being for their use only, while other extremists see it as
something to avoid like the plague. Until such time as the original intent of this banner can be remembered, let two different flags flying
side by side stand for unity in this place where the Anglo and Irish nations converge.