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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.
Mark McCluskey, Ex Belfast

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.
Howard, UK


The flags issue is really about treating a symptom, whereas we should really be tackling the root cause

Wesley Johnston, Belfast
They say flags have been cited as a major cause of tension. But people don't fly flags for their own sake - they fly them to mark out territory. Take away the flags and people will just find another way to mark out their territory and thus raise tensions. The flags issue is really about treating a symptom, whereas we should really be tackling the root cause, that is, that two groups of people have never learned how to get on with each other.
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.
Stewart, Great Britain

Belfast should have its own flag and identity portraying its roots as Ireland. Maybe the tricolour with the union jack in the corner?
Dave, England

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?
Johnny Muffin, Ireland


Unionists will be able to remove it when they get their term as Mayor and treat half the population of this city with the complete contempt they always have

Eoin Money, Ireland
Amazing, people moaning about one nationalist flag in a building stuffed with Union flags and continually flying one from the roof. Well Unionists will be able to remove it when they get their term as Mayor and treat half the population of this city with the complete contempt they always have. Well done Mr Maskey, you've shown respect by leaving the Union flag in place, it will be others that show themselves up as intransigent bigots by their actions in the future.
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.
John, South Africa

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.
Michael Fryer, NI

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.
Jim, NI

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!
Paula, Netherlands

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.
Nicholas Green, Great Britain

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.
Kev S, UK


The most appropriate flag for the North currently would be a tricolour with black instead of white in the middle

Conal, Ireland
There are three options - 1. Fly both flags anywhere flags are flown. 2. Don't fly any flags. 3. Only fly non-contentious flags on a per location basis. (ie civic flags some places, Union Jack where local objections are minimal, and tricolour where objection minimal). What is NOT an option is the continuing flying of the Union Jack where it is not wanted. (unless the tricolour flies alongside) As for comments about the Tricolour being a sectarian symbol - it is indeed used as such by some, as is the Union Jack. However it does not symbolise sectarism (quite the reverse) anymore than the Union Jack symbolises British colonial oppression. The most appropriate flag for the North currently would be a tricolour with black instead of white in the middle. War instead of peace between green and orange.
Conal, Ireland

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?
Michael O'Meara, Dublin, Ireland

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?
Mick, Ireland

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.
Niall Clarke, Manchester,England

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!
Casper, Nevis


Having two flags side by side is not going to make every citizen happy - we need to have another flag that represents all communities

Stephen, Antrim
The decision by Alex Maskey to have a Tricolor in his office is a step towards recognition of our catholic neighbours, and displaying their presence in our city. However, having two flags side by side is not going to make every citizen happy, we need to have another flag that represents all communities, after all, flying both flags has caused so much disturbance in the past, we need to look at every issue one by one and as they come
Stephen, Antrim

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.
Phil, UK

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.
Danny Watkins, Dublin ex-Belfast


This same Lord Mayor who claims he wishes to bring people together is doing as much as he can to cause division

Dave, USA
If anyone tried to fly the National flag of any other country but the United States in a prominant place in any public office here in America, you bet they'd be in for one terrible surprise. This same Lord Mayor who claims he wishes to bring people together is doing as much as he can to cause division. He should accept that he's not in the Republic and accept that the Tricolor is not the flag of Ulster.
Dave, USA

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.
Peter, Northern Ireland

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.
Eleanor, NI

Yep. Let them have their own flag. Singular. Just one. That'll give them something new to fight over.
Chris B, England

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
Mark Russell, Chorleywood, Herts, UK


Mayor Maskey should be applauded for his attempt to give a civic place to the large Nationalist populus of Belfast

Breandán, Belfast, Ireland
It never ceases to amaze me when I read such comments from our pro-Union neighbours. To say that the Tricolor is sectarian and used only to stir up tensions is ludicrous when in the second breath these plebians call for the Union flag to be flown over every other civic building, including those such as police stations in Nationalist areas. The audacity and sheer hypocrisy of this stance should be rejected outright by all right minded individuals, and Mayor Maskey should be applauded for his attempt to give a civic place to the large Nationalist populus of Belfast. Belfast is in Ireland, almost half of her citizens claim Irish heritage as their own and by all means should the national flag be flown at our city hall. The Unionists have their flag flowing and there is no reason why we should not have equal parity of esteem!!
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!
Andrew Magowan, Belfast NI

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.
Paul, Belfast

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.
Noel McCurry, London

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.
Stephen Reid, NI UK


Perhaps a different flag symbolising both traditions would be an idea -it worked in South Africa

John, Ireland
Stewart typifies the type of people who must change in order that all people can respect and be respected. I can understand why Unionist people would be upset but they must also recognise that Nationalist people have different allegiances within the same state. Perhaps a different flag symbolising both traditions would be an idea. It worked in South Africa.
John, Ireland

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.
Jon, NI

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.
Karen, Germany

When the Republic of Ireland Taxpayer gives money for public expenditure in Northern Ireland, then the Tricolour can be rightly flown on public buildings.
Mik, Denmark

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.
Paul, NI


I would like to have a flag I could be proud of and which represents everybody in Northern Ireland and puts and end to petty squabbles like this

Steve Brown, NI
As I Unionist I have no pride in the Union Jack as it has been hijacked by loyalist paramilitaries and used by bigots to mark their territory. I also have no wish to see the tricolour flown for the same reason. If possible, like the police emblem, I would like cross community agreement on the issue. I think a new flag for Northern Ireland to replace the NI Service flag would be the sensible solution. Alex Maskey is not as provocative as he could be and since he is keeping the Unionist flags and emblems in place this is really a petty issue. If he wants to fly a tricolour in his own office I might not like it but it is no more an affront to me than the Union Jack is to him. I would like to have a flag I could be proud of and which represents everybody in Northern Ireland and puts and end to petty squabbles like this.
Steve Brown, NI

This Talking Point is now closed.

See also:

04 Sep 02 | N Ireland
13 Nov 00 | N Ireland
02 Jun 00 | N Ireland
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