Violence after Belfast flag vote
Sir, – As a native of Belfast it was depressing, though perhaps not unsurprising, to see the violence that erupted on Monday night in response to a democratic city council vote regarding the display of the Union Flag on public buildings (Home News, December 4th). Peter Robinson has issued a qualified condemnation of these scenes, but it is well known that the convergence of loyalist protesters around the City Hall was largely prompted by a DUP leafleting campaign across Belfast – a fact attested to by the Assembly’s Justice Minister, David Ford.
Peter Robinson has also recently spoken on a number of occasions about his belief that a majority of northern Catholics would support the status quo regarding Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. These statements are perhaps informed by an awareness of the demographic shift toward an eventual Catholic majority in the North, which will likely be evidenced again by the publication of the 2011 census results.
The First Minister is probably correct in implying that a Catholic plurality would not automatically mean a united Ireland. It will, however, likely give rise to an increasingly “green” Northern Ireland. This would involve the emergence, in a number of elections time, of a nationalist majority at Stormont and a nationalist first minister. It would also surely involve further moves toward a neutrality of symbols, much like Monday’s Belfast council vote.
How unionism, in all its strands, reacts to these changing circumstances is a matter of significant importance for all the people of Ireland. It is to be hoped that Monday’s unseemly violence will not be the blueprint for the future. – Yours, etc,