Editorial - Flags and Emblems

In 1964 a group of loyalists marched to Belfast’s Falls Road to demand the removal of a tricolour flag from an election office which was used by republican candidate Liam McMillen.

The protest march was led by a young firebrand cleric, Rev Ian Paisley, who regarded the flag as an insult to the Britishness of Belfast. Back then flying of the tricolour was banned under the Flags and Emblems Act.

Now, almost 50 years later, the Flags and Emblems Act may be gone but the issue still remains as explosive as ever - at least with one section of the community.

While the political scene in the North has changed beyond all recognition in the last 50 years, some things within unionism have not. The leadership of political unionism have taken huge steps forward when in relation to sharing power with republicans and recognition of All-Ireland institutions, sections of the unionist community have not followed them.

Condemnation of the disgraceful scenes of violence witnessed in towns and cities across the North in recent days has been welcome, but it is not enough.

Until the situation that created the space for the recent outbreak of violence to erupt is tackled then the cycle will be repeated. Unionism, instead of attempting to cling to a past which has already disappeared, needs to take a critical look at itself and what it believes in and break away from over reliance on symbolism and rhetoric.

Political ideologies should evolve and often emerge stronger as a result.