Saturday, 2 August 2014

Flags & Pride

Evening of 31st July to Morning 2nd August

I don't think I have seen this many (Union Jack) flags in such a short space of time ever before (well maybe in the Summer of 2012). I have to admit I was rather surprised at the number and density of flags being flown in and around Belfast. Sure, I had expected a couple of various lilts concentrated around the 'peace' walls, but they were practically everywhere (outside of the city centre). The vast majority of these were Union Jacks or Northern Irish - Unionist - flags; some streets in largely Protestant/Presbyterian had alternate Union flags/Northern Irish flags every few meters.

Flags seem to be a thing that the people of the city (and of Northern Ireland more generally) cling to for a sense of identity - Downpatrick, Clough, Lisburn, Ballymena and Ballyboogey all full of Union Jacks and Northern Irish flags. We ventured on an open-topped tour bus and our tour guide informed us that although the divisions are still very pronounced in Belfast, many (mostly likely the majority) of people in Northern Ireland just want peace, not politics.
Politics, however, seems to be what is being clung to in these flags. Especially as many of the Irish flags in the largely Catholic areas we passed through, were accompanied by Palestinian flags; their mark of solidarity for the Palestinians. The Unionist side didn't seem to be involved in that particular bit of politics but I did see one solitary Israeli flag at one point (though this was very close to a traditionally Jewish area of the city).

It was harder to get good pictures on the 'Nationalist's Side' as the wind was blowing quite a lot.

Two flags/symbols that the city does seem to unite (or at least not fight over) on, however, is Manchester United (George Best) 

and (pleasingly) The Belfast Pride Festival, which culminated with the march today. Much of the city centre was full of Pride flags, merchandise and posters and none of it seemed to be meeting with any hostility.

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