Letter to Irish Times, January 9, 2013

FLAG FLYING

To give the Irish people a sense of how loyalists feel at the decision of Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the Union flag on City Hall to 17 designated days a year, loyalist activist Willie Frazer, in a planned protest by a group of about 150 loyalists due to take place outside Leinster House on Saturday [since postponed], will be asking for the Tricolour to be taken down. To underline his point, Mr Frazer said he “would be very offended if he was living in Ireland and someone came and asked him to take the Tricolour down”.

Every year on the eve of July 12th right across the North, massive public displays of sectarianism and bitterness are routinely enacted as loyalist bonfires bedecked with Tricolours, papal flags and, more recently, Polish flags are set alight with apparent impunity.

This burning of the Tricolour has now become such an integral element in loyalist culture and tradition that it does not even warrant comment in much of the media anymore. These sectarian bonfires pollute not just the atmosphere but poison community relations throughout the North.

I have yet to see Mr Frazer, or indeed the broad loyalist family he purports to represent, take offence at these disgusting displays of public hatred and flag burning and call for them to cease. Why?

Tom Cooper

(Cathaoirleach -INC)