It’s marching season in Northern Ireland, and this year there’s some extra attention on appearances of the Confederate battle flag, subject of much controversy in the American South.
Writing in National Catholic Reporter, Mary Ann McGivern notes the similarity of arguments between those who believe celebrating Protestant King William of Orange’s 1690 victory over Catholic King James II is a matter of heritage, and those who say it represents hate. She writes:
As far as I can see, most of the people who wield these symbols of supremacy and privilege don’t have the ugly history in the forefront of their minds. The flags and songs are an excuse for drinking and maybe for finding someone to beat up — in short, for exercising privilege today.
The U.S. has been focusing attention on the June murder of nine African-Americans inside their South Carolina church, and the alleged 21-year-old killer photographed with the battle flag on a website attributed to him and filled with racist rants. South Carolina political leaders are trying to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds. But Business Insider reported the “stars and bars” also flies in other nations around the world, for various reasons. In Northern Ireland, the dissident Red Hand Defenders have marched with the flag due to their links with Ulster-Scots who fought for the Confederacy.
Now, with marching season building to its 12 July climax, the Confederate flag has been erected outside the home of a black family in East Belfast. One local politician told the UK Independent: “The flying of this flag is closely intertwined with historical slavery and racist tension, as can be seen by its glorification during recent racially-motivated attacks in the US.”
And in Co. Antrim, the Belfast Telegraph reported Confederate and Nazi flags were flown along with the Union Jack and loyalist paramilitary flags near a Carrickfergus bonfire site. The BBC later reported the Nazi flags were removed.