Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Flag dispute simply polarises opinion again

Anyone who thought that Sinn Fein's move to remove the City Hall flag, and making it top of their 'really must do first agenda' just before Christmas, would just pass by like it had done in other towns throughout the north, must have been really rather naive.

Yes of course we have the changing demographics of Belfast city and it has to be accepted that such a move was Sinn Fein's democratic right but was it a good idea in the present climate, when we have still bomb plots being hatched and dissidents once again upping the ante by killing a prison officer?

In no way at all am I excusing the violent reaction by some protesters and recreational rioters but I would have been totally surprised if there had not been a reaction. It is probably not all over yet but things could have actually been a lot worse given the fact that there were thousands of hot-headed loyalists on the streets again.

I think this flag issue and the Newry playground naming issue simply divide, polarise and harden softening opinion once again. We are now very much back to a 'powder keg' situation where extremists from either side will feel justified in making threats, firebombing, killing or planting bombs. Very sad for the future well being of all. Especially as we had actually come such a long way as a society and given that the 'feel good place factor', had largely returned - 'Our place our time'. Now I'm not so sure anymore.

TJ McCLEAN

Belfast

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