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Talking about flags – more from that RedC poll… January 17, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

Voting for the status quo… that flag issue.

In the recent RedC/Paddy Power poll there was the following question:

Recently Belfast City Council restricted the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall, by limiting the number of days it can be flown to 17 days per year. Do you think the council were.. Right/Wrong/Don’t Know

And the figures? Right 36%, Wrong 46% and DK 18%.

Can’t help but feel this slots right into a discourse of ‘don’t bother us about up there’. Could it be that the threat and actuality of paramilitary violence and protest – and perhaps loyalist violence in particular – is still enormously potent in shaping responses in this state.

And that’s unfortunate because it also suggests a detachment from the details of the issue: that this was a democratic vote, that it permitted the flying of the flag when the alternative was to not permit it at all and that the response to this has been extra-political and at times extremely violent.

That the reality is that public opinion in the Republic has at best tangential influence on this is another matter entirely.


1. que - January 17, 2013

I’d buy into a Krugmanism on this issue and refer to the non-partisan commentator type. For Krugman its when non-partisanship is stretched beyond reason deep into being blind and saying there all as bad as each other when patently enough its one party the US Republicans being the problem.

Here in our free state the media, despite its strong bias towards Sinn Fein in all other matters (ahem) pushes a both sides are responsible and why cant everybody pull their socks up. It is indeed a part that the fear of loyalist violence* plays a part but in the main I think its they are conditioned to report on the basis that loyalism is a reactionary instinct cause it has to be the Provos deep down.

The idea that, you know, there is large section of loyalism which is simply bonkers, bigoted and irrational is of course not a story about shared spaces and harmony.

Look at the Examiner paper which bemoaned SF for its role in the protests but never mentioned that it was the holy order of the Alliance which put the motion forward.

You have what might be called a cluster F*ck where free state media are caught between the following:
Loyalists react and its Republicans who started it,
All that the Alliance party does is just,
the SDLP, amen, are the true voice of reasonable catholics.

Now when Loyalists rampage on their own for weeks in response to an Alliance motion backed by SDLP and SF then naturally enough getting a true picture within the stated constraints is not going to happen.

People are likely saying yes because they arent being told the full picture


JP - January 17, 2013

I think Tommy Gorman’s coverage on RTE has looked for every desperate opportunity to slip into the ‘one side as bad as the other, tit-for-tat’ narrative.


2. Joe - January 17, 2013

Those figures surprised me when I saw them too. Just a gut instinct but I say it’s a don’t want to know syndrome in the populace down here. That people just don’t care about what goes on in the north as long as it’s quiet. So when something happens that makes it noisy, people say why did ye stir it up, it was all nice and quiet, you shouldn’t have done whatever you did to stir it up.


3. irishmarxism - January 17, 2013

Given how things are reported, or have been reported for decades now, it is not surprising that people in the Republic shy away. This is easier to do when you can’t really understand what is going on because the media narrative conflicts so much with the bare facts.

The comment that a lot of what is going on is straight intimidation is exactly right see –


On how partition has deepened division and thus increased the barrier to understanding see –



4. Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - January 17, 2013

One of the essential elements of any legitimate survey of political opinions is neutrally phrased questions, ones that do not predetermine the answer. That was certainly not the case in the Red C Poll on the flags issue.

“Recently Belfast City Council restricted the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall, by limiting the number of days it can be flown to 17 days per year. Do you think the council were:

Wrong to restrict, as Belfast is in the UK and the flag should be able to be flown there?”

The answer is built into the question! Is it any wonder that a majority of those queried through the use of a phone questionnaire on a series of varying topics chose this particular answer? They gave the answer that was obviously expected of them.

Furthermore the data supplied by Red C is contradictory. In the PDF of the survey Red C states that:

“…a third of Irish voters (35%) thought the council were right to restrict the flying of the Union flag, while 47% thought they were wrong to restrict it and 18% did not express a view.”

However the accompanying graph states that 36% thought that the council was right while 46% claimed that the council was wrong. Not 35% and 47% respectively.

Even stranger the Irish Indo article on the story boldly claims that:

““Over half of those surveyed, 57pc, felt Belfast city council was wrong to restrict the flying of the Union flag at Belfast city hall.”

The attitude of the survey reflects that of the Irish media establishment and its sneaking regard for Unionism. We have seen more articles and opinion pieces in the Irish newspapers defending or justifying the violence of the anti-democracy protesters from the extreme of the British Unionist minority in the north-east of the country than condemning. We have even had one journalistic sympathiser taking RTÉ to task for calling the British national flag the “Union Jack” instead of its “proper” title – the “Union flag”.

These people are as mad as those they defend!


WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2013

You are spot on and my mistake for not seeing the bias from the off… They’ve some nerve putting that out.


hardcore for nerds - January 18, 2013

well, the ‘Right’ option had a leading element to it as well, “as it will be flown on specific occasions” although it’s hardly the full story. if they’d asked straight Right/Wrong would there have been more ‘don’t knows’? at least this way it can be seen how many people agree with each supposed justification. the other mistakes probably just fall into the category of rounding errors and the Indo being the Indo.


Red Hand - January 18, 2013

I think the average free stater’s view is that ‘they’ are all mad ‘up there.’
But I wonder what you mean by ‘British unionist minority’. I disagree with unionists and loyalists but they are Irish like myself. From a look at your website Mr. Badger, the loyalists are not the only ones who are a bit mad.


Red Hand - January 18, 2013

Sorry, that’s a comment on Seamus above


Red Hand - January 18, 2013

Had a look at your website Seamus and I have to ask are you having a laugh?


Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - January 18, 2013

I frequently have a laugh but are you referring to anything in particular?

The Unionist community in the north-east of the country regards and calls itself British and I respect that. Why should I force my description on them? One of the failures of Irish nationalism over the last century and more has been its inability to see Unionists as anything other than misguided Irish people. The old concept that a Unionist is just a Republican waiting to get out.

They regard themselves as a distinct ethno-national minority on the island of Ireland and I am happy to accept that.


Joe - January 18, 2013

I agree with you Séamus that the unionists are British.


5. fergal - January 17, 2013

Those who responded to the question in the opinion poll live in the only state in Western Europe that has never had a left govt. An electorate that believes that crudhing FF with FG in the 2011 election was in the words of Ruairi Quinn “a revolution”.
A lot of the pieces on the protesters have emphasised Unionist alienation and poverty… yet 36 of the poorest 40 electoral districts in the north are catholic/nationalist. And while the flag wavers are protesting Stormont is continuing to hammer the 40 areas and the rest of the north…


Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - January 18, 2013

Joe, yourself and Séamus might draw very different conclusions from your agreement that the Unionists are British. See his groovy blog.
Was Jemmie Hope British? He was a Protestant from Ulster. Is it because the Unionists say that they are British? Why can’t a Unionist from Dun Laoghaire be British then? Edward Carson did not define himself as British.


Joe - January 18, 2013

So many questions Branno! I’ll answer one:
Is it because the Unionists say they are British? Yes, it is.

I’m Irish. I just am. I know I am. I’m quite sure of it. If some English tory said to me that actually I’m mistaken, that I’m really British, it’s just I don’t realize I am … I’d be very cross and might give him a good old Irish puc in the gob.
So if the unionists tell me they are British, that’s good enough for me.
I see it as plain good manners really.


6. fergal - January 17, 2013

crushing and not crudhing!
hammer these 40 areas and not the!


WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2013

But the points you make are sound…


7. Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2013

A point missed is the pogrom directed at the Alliance Party. Maybe they are not leftwing enough. I heard one of them say that the same compromise was accepted in Ballymena and I think Craigavon.


8. Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2013

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