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Ian Paisley Junior wrong to request increased flying of British flags in Six Counties

6 July, 2007

Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim, Daithí Mc Kay has said that Ian Paisley Junior is wrong to request the increased flying of the Union Jack in Six Counties.

He said,

"For nationalists the British union flag and associated emblems are symbols of domination, the imposition or partition and the denial of democracy to the Irish people.

The British flag and Crown symbols, whatever about any political allegiance to Britain it may convey, have been used by unionism as a symbol of political dominance and a tool of sectarian coat trailing.

The late human rights lawyer PJ McGrory summed up this experience when he wrote:

"All around them nationalists, on a daily basis, see the ordinary institutions of an ordered society proclaiming a loyalty and an allegiance, which they do not share, but by which they feel oppressed, strangers in their own land."

The Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement was about changing all of that. The norms applied to flying the union flags and symbols at Government and Court buildings in Britain are not appropriate to the six counties and the "increased sense of Britishness proposed by Gordon Brown should rightly only apply to England, not the North East of Ireland . The north is not as British as Finchley as once famously proclaimed and Ian paisley Junior should compare the two.

The unique nature of the Good Friday Agreement and the conditions which gave rise to its negotiation and the new Assembly are a testimony of that. What was agreed at Castle Buildings at Easter 1998 was about mapping out a framework which would ensure equality and respect from and for all citizens, as well as defending and protesting human rights and civil liberties. In relation to flags and emblems the Agreement was very clear. It demanded that symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division.

The new power sharing Assembly provides a platform for inclusiveness and respect and Ian Paisley Junior's comments are contradictory to this spirit of a shared future.

Sinn Féin's position is clear; where there are British cultural symbols involved in public life in the north, equivalent Irish cultural and political symbols should be given equal prominence. If agreement or consensus cannot be found on this then a reasonable alternative is to suspend the flying of flags until such agreement can be found. In other words and equality scenario or a neutrality scenario. "


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