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Northern Ireland superfan launches petition to get flag emoji

Green & White Army superfan launches petition

Jonny Blair (39) from Bangor.
Jonny Blair (39) from Bangor.

By John Toner

A Northern Ireland superfan has launched a petition to get the province its own flag emoji.

The campaign by Jonny Blair (39), who's originally from Bangor but now lives in Poland, only opened last month but has already attracted more than 5,500 signatures.

The travel writer, who has spent much of the last decade attempting to fulfil his dream of visiting every country in the world, wants to see the Ulster Banner available to use as an emoji on smartphones.

He said: "The campaign came about while I was having a chat with some fellow supporters at a match and we realised there was no Northern Ireland-specific option.

"I don't like the flags we have to use at the moment because we don't have our own emoji. All the other countries across the world have their flag represented on social media platforms through emojis, but we don't.

"When I'm posting on social media about following the Northern Ireland team, I have the ridiculous options of a shamrock or a Nigeria flag (because it's green and white).

"I want us to be able to use the Ulster Banner because most people recognise it as a Northern Ireland-specific symbol.

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"I think we should have it as our flag for the six counties. We are at a disadvantage being Northern Irish when it comes to picking emojis for texting and posting on social media.

"It has bothered me for a while because I have run various Northern Ireland supporters' clubs over the years. We need to have the Ulster Banner more widespread."

Despite living in Poland, Jonny is aware how contentious flags can be - particularly at this time of the year - but for him the petition is about bringing people together.

Jonny Blair.
Jonny Blair.

"Obviously it's flag season and people talk a lot more about flags at this time of year. I thought it would be good to get the petition going around this time to get more signatories," he said.

"Ironically, this is a flag debate in a country that loves flag debates.

"It's a good time to do it because people have been going to the Twelfth (parades) and things like that, but it's not about that really - it's about bringing people together under the flag.

"Northern Ireland has been neglected by social media and corporate institutions who design emojis for apps, phones and social media platforms.

"It is ludicrous that places like Guernsey and Jersey, which aren't Fifa countries, and (things like) gay relationships and Formula One all have their flag options, yet Northern Ireland doesn't.

"The four other British Isles countries do.

"The Union Flag and Irish Tricolour are divisive. We want our country represented properly.

"Sporting heroes like Rory McIlroy, Jonny Evans and Jonathan Rea all have pride in being from Northern Ireland, as do celebrities such as Zoe Salmon, Mr Tayto, Colin Murray and Tim Wheeler.

"None of us wants to use another country's flag to represent us. We have to use the Nigeria flag in football and an uneasy mix of Irish and British flags for other posts.

"If you visit Tayto Castle or the Giant's Causeway, you do not visit specifically Ireland or United Kingdom - you visit Northern Ireland.

"For locals, for tourists, for intelligent people, we need our flag on there. We will fight and we will be right."

Mr Blair hopes the petition will gain more signatures when the football season returns in a few weeks. "I haven't really done much promotion on it yet, but it's had a huge response already," he said.

"In September, when the football comes back, I'll push it then. It might take six months or six years, but we'll get there."

The former Bangor Grammar pupil has visited over 160 countries in his quest to visit every nation in the world, usually posing for a snap with his Northern Ireland flag each time.

In 2016 he went missing in Poland for 10 days, sparking fears for his safety, but was found safe and well following appeals for information.

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