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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Should Belfast have its own flag?
Belfast's first republican lord mayor has unveiled an Irish tricolour in his office at the City Hall alongside the union jack.
The move has angered unionists in Northern Ireland, who have accused Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey of abusing his office.
However, Mr Maskey said it was a matter of equality.
Alliance councillor David Alderdice has suggested that a flag for Belfast City should be considered.
The flying of flags has been cited as a major reason for raising tensions in the city.
Do you think the city should have its own flag for all its citizens? Or can the flags issue be resolved by other means?
Here is a selection of your e-mails.
Is my memory failing me or didn't those who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement accept that Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and would remain so until a majority of its citizens decide otherwise? Under that condition it is as rational to fly the flag of China as it is to fly the flag of the Republic of Ireland. I think it would be more appropriate to fly the Northern Ireland flag rather than the Union Jack.
Belfast should have a flag and Northern Ireland should have a new cross-community flag. The present one is nice to me but unfortunately not all nationalists like it.
Wesley Johnston, Belfast
It's a disgrace that this flag should be allowed to fly over Belfast City Hall. Belfast is a part of the United Kingdom and should fly the flag of this country and not the flag of a foreign, terrorist supporting country.
Belfast should have its own flag and identity portraying its roots as Ireland. Maybe the tricolour with the union jack in the corner?
The Unionists have a simple choice - except they share this part of the island with people who disagree with them or they can attempt to turn the clock back to 1969. If they choose the latter will the British Government allow them (as they usually do) or will they implement the Good Friday Agreement which guarantees equality?
Eoin Money, Ireland
Northern Ireland should be re-united with Ireland and the Irish flag should be flown in Northern Ireland as it is part of Ireland.
There is no reason why a banner of the coat of arms of the city could not be flown. The arms are already used extensively to represent the City Council and would no doubt prove to be the most appropriate way to present all citizens of Belfast.
The fact is, the Union Jack is the flag of this country. The Mayor talks about equality but I see it only as another antagonistic SF manoeuvre. The Union flag should fly over all others as is the wish of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. This is a democracy we live in after all.
No way should the Irish flag be allowed in the Belfast City Hall. It is not part of the Republic of Ireland but part of UK. This is just another attempt to cause trouble. It is about time Tony Blair stood up for the rights of the people in Belfast and stop giving in to Sinn Fein!
I would question the mayor's reasons for flying this flag. With all the top figures including the mayor commenting on the need for peace and harmony, such a move has instantly raised tensions amongst Unionists. This must surely be a contradiction on the part of the mayor.
Belfast has two suitable flags it can fly.The national flag with the Red Hand & Crown emblem or the Union Jack. Nothing less is exceptable and I see it as a stunt to raise already heightened tensions.
A flag is a flag, does it really matter what flag is flown as long as the job of governing and administering the Belfast City Council budget is done in a competent fashion. Is that what, rate payers really want?
It seems only fair that Republicans should be allowed to fly their flag if the Unionists can fly theirs doesn't it?
I wonder how unionist politicians would feel if they were made to display the Tricolour, and were not allowed fly their Union Jack.
A possible solution:
How about having a half and half flag?
The top half from left to right could be the Tricolour and the bottom half the Union Jack or vice versa?
I think the dispute sums up exactly the petty purile state of mind of the majority of the elected reps in NI - don't forget they have been elected for by the majority of the population - and why both this country and the Republic of Ireland would be better off leaving them to their own devices (explosive or otherwise!) and stop wasting time, effort and money on the Province.
I am somewhat perplexed to hear such comments from people who don't clearly understand or ignorantly refuse to recognise that Belfast is in Ireland, although sadly governed by the UK, it remains a part of Ireland, her natural homeland, and therefore recognition of that fact by Alex Maskey is just!
I don't care what it has so long as it doesn't cost me any tax money. We've spent far too much already on that shower of bigots, none of whom want peace.
Heres an idea. Why not put the Coat of Arms of Belfast on a flag and fly that? Belfast people from both sides of the divide are proud of their city (and rightly so) and it already appears on council vehicles lamp posts etc. and it's not contentious.
Northern Ireland is not America. All citizens in the States have allegiance to their flag.
The same can certainly not be said here, where almost 50% of people have no allegiance to the Union Flag.
Unionists may wish it were otherwise but we have to deal with reality.
Both the Tricolour and the Union Flag have been used by paramilitaries to glorify murder and antagonise the other community.
The only solutions are no flags or one that can gain the respect of both communities.
Also, Mr Maskey says he is promoting equality - if he were serious about that he should also have a flag representing the large Chinese community in NI in his parlour.
I think that the only way to resolve this ongoing dispute is to create a new flag for Northern Ireland, one which will represent each community in. However, I'm sure that the small-minded bigots on both sides of the community will find something else to complain about.
Yep. Let them have their own flag. Singular. Just one. That'll give them something new to fight over.
It's not an issue of whether the Irish flag can fly in Belfast. Thousands of them do, as do the flags of many other countries outside hotels and conference centres. What is at issue here is the motivation of Alex Maskey in raising this flag in the Mayor's Parlour. As usual Sinn Fein are stirring. I encourage the Unionists to ignore it and not take the bait. Next year there will be a Unionist Mayor, and the flag will be gone. Let's keep perspective
Breandán, Belfast, Ireland
While I am a unionist I do accept that a sizeable minority of people in Northern Ireland do not identify with the union flag. Why therefore don't we use the cross of St Patrick as our national flag. This would suit Nationalists as St Patrick is an Irish saint,and Unionists as the cross appears on the union flag!
I doubt many Unionists or Loyalists actually realise the significance of the colours inherrent within the national flag of Ireland. The Green signifies the Nationalist/Republican tradition, the orange, the Protestant/Unionist tradition and finally the white representing peace and unity. This flag represents all that is good about this island and although formulated early in the last century still stands as a testament to the continued attempt by the Nationalist people to reach out to those in other traditions. Have we seen, even, an attempt by Unionism to reach out to us, we're still waiting.
It is right that the Irish Flag is flying at City Hall. Unionists will now understand what it has been like for Nationalists for years putting up with the Union Jack.
I would think that Belfast already has a flag. Most cities do. If so, let's use that in addition to the Union Flag. If not, create a new flag with the Union Flag in the background and Belfast's Coat of Arms in the centre. Personally I think the City Hall should have one hundred Union Flags on it.
I can not believe that an Irish Tricolour is being presented in Belfast City Hall. I have no problem at all seeing the Irish Tricolour in the Republic of Ireland. That is a country on its own and has its own representation. If this were America that would be considered an act of treason. We as a country are ruled by the government of the United Kingdom, we are part of the United Kingdom therefore we come under the legislation of the United Kingdom. The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom. Is Alex Maskey trying to provoke a response from Unionists or this is case of "Up yours!" to the Unionist community. It is a sad day for Northern Ireland.
The issue of flags in N Ireland will always be divisive. A new design will not solve the problem as those on both sides will continue to display their own colours. A better solution is to display both flags in public buildings, reflecting that the government institutions serve all the people and are not the domain of any one community.
When the Republic of Ireland Taxpayer gives money for public expenditure in Northern Ireland, then the Tricolour can be rightly flown on public buildings.
As I Nationalist I am bored to death with rubbish like this. A flag is only a piece of cloth and doesn't put food on the table. Both sides must forget about pointless issues like this and get down to tackling real social issues.
Steve Brown, NI
This Talking Point is now closed.
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