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Tricolour burning should not detract from Liverpool’s record of welcome

As an Irish Catholic, I found nothing but a warm welcome from local people of all creeds and none in the city, writes Declan McSweeney

Still from the video which appears to show young people burning the Irish flag in Liverpool last month

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 00:00

   

Declan McSweeney

The recent burning of the tricolour by youths outside the Liverpool HQ of the Orange Order has been met with horror in a city renowned for its Irish connections. As Angie Sammons’ report in Liverpool Confidential shows, a video of the vandalism has emerged, and the flag burning has been strongly condemned by Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy and Councillor Jim Noakes, who works closely with the Irish community.

While 50 to 75 per cent of the local population has some Irish roots, Liverpool is the main centre of the Orange Order in England, but groups like Cairde na hEireann, with strong republican views, have a presence, and organised this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Vauxhall.

Liverpool is the only English city ever to have elected an Irish Nationalist MP, Thomas P O’Connor. The Athlone man represented Scotland Road from 1885 to 1929.

On the other hand, the Liverpool Protestant Party long had a presence in local politics, winning its last seat in 1973.

But while the history of sectarian conflict is outlined in the Museum of Liverpool, this is largely ancient history. As an Irish Catholic who spent nearly two years in Liverpool until moving to Manchester recently to start a new job, I found nothing but a warm welcome from local people of all creeds and none – I can truthfully say I never felt a day’s homesickness in either city.

The pioneering work of RC Archbishop Derek Worlock and CofE Bishop David Sheppard in bringing communities together was continued by successors Patrick Kelly and James Jones and inter-church links are shown in joint schools like St Francis of Assisi Academy.

Indeed, last year saw both men joined by Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed and Salvation Army representatives at services in the two cathedrals to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee.

Last November, the Remembrance Day ceremony involved not only representatives of the main Christian groups, but also of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities.

The actions of a few hooligans must not detract from Liverpool’s welcoming and tolerant spirit. The city where over one million Irish came during the Famine of the 1840s continues to welcome the Irish.

Traditional Twelfth of July commemorations take place in Northern Ireland today. See here for full coverage. 

Declan McSweeney is an Irish journalist currently working in Manchester.