Stephen Nolan cracks over flag protester's 'them and us' comments
'The only thing I care about is my culture and east Belfast' said the Loyalist caller
A frustrated Stephen Nolan told a caller to ‘wise up’ on his radio show after a discussion about outgoing Alliance leader David Ford descended into a bitter row over the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.
The South Antrim MLA’s resignation as party leader was discussed on Thursday morning's BBC Radio Ulster show with the outgoing leader on as a guest.
Mr Ford stepped down officially at noon on the 15th anniversary of his taking over as party leader.
However, one caller, Joan was not too upset, she said: “The only legacy that the Alliance Party ever left was bringing our flag down.”
The party was targeted by loyalist protesters who were angry at a city council vote to reduce the number of days the Union flag flies at Belfast City Hall. Nationalists had wanted it removed altogether, but Alliance suggested a compromise that the flag should fly on designated days. The matter led to riots and a lengthy protest.
“City hall, they all voted ‘we’ll bring the flag down’, nobody told east Belfast they were bringing the flag down,” Joan said.
She then claimed that public money was being spent on republican events and not ones that were loyalist organised.
She went on: “They're all out blowing their whistles, they can have their republican festivals, there's the council throwing money at them, what money do they throw at our culture? None. It’s all British money and they love it.”
A stunned Nolan responded: “Do you not think Joan, some people listening this morning, will find it very, very sad that the whole thrust of your conversation is ‘them and us’?
“What people are trying to do in this country is for it to be ‘all of us together’.”
When asked if she cared about building a new Northern Ireland, she responded: “The only thing I care about is my culture and east Belfast.”
“If you are on the Catholic side or the nationalist side, you'll get a job, you’ll get a house, you’ll get a DLA car, you’ll get everything. You live in east Belfast, you don’t get a house, the foreigners get the house,” Joan continued.
“We’ve lived through this for all the years, we continue to live with it. We have a fight on our hands every day.
“We go for an interview, we don’t get the job, but if anybody came from the other side, they come to east Belfast, they would get the job. This is the way it happens here.”
This prompted broadcaster Nolan to cut her off, saying: “Joan wise up. Of course you're entitled to an opinion, but some of it needs to be based on fact.”
However, the show was then joined by another caller Sue, who was also annoyed by the flag policy at Belfast City Hall.
She said: “Why should we not fly our flag in our country? There’s not another country in the world that doesn’t fly their flag, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we fly our flag every day, be proud of it.
“I know there's more important issues like health, and education housing, this is a tiny issue to some people about the flag, but it's our flag, it represents our country, why should we not be able to fly our flag?”
Sue and Joan then criticised Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long for talking too much, before moving on to Nolan himself. “You do overtalk,” he was told.
To which Nolan responded: "The two of you are having little difficulty."
A nationalist caller then rang in to lambast the pair for being “stuck in the past”.
“These two ladies need to get a grip,” he said.
“We all have to move on and we all have to get on with each other.”