Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Elliott was right to be in a flutter over political flag-wavers

Tom Elliott was rightly criticised when he characterised tricolour waving Sinn Fein supporters as "scum" in his acceptance speech after being elected.

But he had one solid point to make.

There is too much flag waving in our elections and in our politics generally. Mr Elliott told me later that he felt it disrespectful to flaunt national flags in this way; they should be flown on the appropriate occasions, rather than used as cultural symbols or to put it up to your political opponents.

The sight of Peter Robinson draped in union jack like Superman or an England fan on a night out in Hamburg seems incongruous now that the border is no longer an issue in elections. And on the UUP's own symbol is a map of Northern Ireland in Union Jack colours.

No doubt flag wavers will say that they want to include everyone in the benefits of the union or in the richness of their Irish identity, as the case may be.

Unfortunately that is not how it comes across.

Waving one's chosen national flag is seen by opponents as provocative and defiant, not welcoming or inclusive.

Everyone knows that.

Yet this is not a problem that can be handled by legislation.

What it is requires is civility and good sense. Let's put an end to this sea of flags at election time.

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