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West Belfast street flies England flag for World Cup

It's not every day an England flag is spotted flying brazenly in the heart of nationalist west Belfast.

But old hostilities have been set aside as the residents of Iris Mews off the Springfield Road get into the spirit of the 2010 World Cup.

The St George’s Cross is just one of 32 flags hanging from every house in the street, representing each country taking part in this year’s tournament, which kicks off in South Africa next Friday.

Each resident signed up to a sweepstake, agreeing to fly the flag of whichever country they selected.

And according to Liam Gorman, who helped organise the sweepstake, it wasn’t the England flag that everyone wanted to avoid.

“To be honest, the guy who got the England flag wasn’t bothered by it at all and doesn’t mind flying it from his house,” he said.

“The flag that nobody wanted to get was the French one, following Thierry Henry’s handball that put Ireland out of the World Cup. That was the controversial flag.

“But the guy who got that lives round the corner, so we don’t really have to look at it.”

Liam said that he was placing a football bet with some neighbours when they got chatting about the World Cup and how best to get the whole community involved.

After gauging the reaction of some residents, they decided on the sweepstake and Liam sent off for the 32 flags from a company he found on the internet.

“The flags cost £85 and £6 post and packaging and to begin with, we thought we’d only get about 16 people joining in,” he says.

“But once the flags started going up, everyone in the street wanted one, even those who aren’t into football.

“The Blackstaff Engineering Works gave us poles for £2 each, so we could fly them properly and

the street is looking great, very colourful.

“On the day of the World Cup final we’re going to have a bit of a party so that everyone can get involved, from the kids to the pensioners.”

Several houses in the street have two flags hoisted, including Liam’s.

“I’m pretty lucky, I’ve got Argentina and my wee boy has Italy,” he said.

“Though, in reality, I reckon Spain are going to go all the way.”

And the winner of the sweepstake will get £40 prize money, while there’s £20 in the pot for the runner-up.

Liam said: “We’re going to make this World Cup a great celebration for everyone in the street,” he said.

“The flags thing has really taken off and we’ve had people coming up just to have a look at them.

“For so long flags have been the cause of so much trouble and offence in Northern Ireland, but not these ones — well, except for the French flag of course!”

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