Flag festival sets enthusiasts aflutter

Swastika on public display for first time in nearly 70 years

A man looking at a Nazi flag from a display in the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire.
Photograph: Aidan Crawley

A man looking at a Nazi flag from a display in the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Sat, May 11, 2013, 01:00

The Bratacha festival of flags and emblems, which takes place in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, this weekend includes a Nazi swastika flag on public display in Ireland for the first time in nearly 70 years.

The National Maritime Museum has been draped in hundreds of flags of all shapes and hues for part of what organisers say is the first Irish festival to focus on the “history, heritage, culture and identities associated with flags”. Many of the exhibits have a maritime connection, so there are royal mail naval flags, pennants, and various ensigns as well as pre- and post-independence commissioners of Irish Lights flags.

In addition, there is a “conflict area”, a sort of chamber of horrors, because, as vexillologist (flag expert) Graham Bartram pointed out, “some of the worst regimes can have some of the best flags”.

Mr Bartram said there are some guidelines which flag designers should stick to, such as keeping the number of colours to a minimum and avoiding generic layouts.

French example
The Irish Tricolour, he said, “is a flag of its time,” created during that “period of turmoil at the beginning of the 19th century” when republican groups sought to emulate the French example.

Stan Zamyatin, who was instrumental in putting the exhibition together, said the organisers wanted to created an area to showcase “some of what you might call controversial flags”. The Nazi flag sits alongside those of North Korea, Syria, the Soviet Union and others.

Mr Zamyatin said it was the first time a Nazi flag has been displayed publicly in Ireland since a swastika flew over the German ambassador’s residence during the second World War. A number of countries ban the flying of the flag but tend to sanction it for historical or cultural purposes.