Flag protests continue in Belfast, threaten Dublin

Loyalists demonstrators continue to protest restrictions on flying the British Union Jack flag over Belfast City Hall. Police claimed Saturday they were fired upon by someone in an unruly mob of about 1,000 people.

The protests have reached the one-month mark. Here’s a BBC Q & A explaining the issue, which so far is drawing only lite media attention in the U.S.

But the story could heat up more in the coming week if bus loads of protesters make good on their vow to bring the demonstrations across the boarder to the Republic of Ireland. The Irish Examiner reports the demonstrators want to demand removal of the Irish Tricolour from Leinster House, the seat of government. Said one protest leader:

“Under the Good Friday Agreement we were promised that this would remain part of the United Kingdom. Now we are continually told to move on, and that this is an island of equals. If that’s the case, how do the people in Dublin feel when we come down and ask them to take the flag off the capital in their country? Very annoyed, I would say.”

For me, the issue resonates from my newspaper coverage more than a decade ago about changing representations of the Confederate period in the City of Mobile, Ala., city seal. Confederate partisans wanted to keep the controversial Battle flag image in place, while many African-Americans and tourism/economic development-focused whites wanted it replaced by a less offensive (and less familiar) flag of the Confederate government. Similar controversies have flared across the American South for years.

In Mobile, protests and debate lasted for 18 months before the city government and “Southern Heritage” supporters finally reached a “Dixie détente.” Here’s hoping the flag issue on the island of Ireland doesn’t take as long to resolve, or get any nastier than it’s already been.