No Flag Northern Ireland
Poor no-flag Northern Ireland. While England Scotland and Wales all have flags, as countries in the United Kingdom, not her. But rather than a transparent skirt of technical correctness, which would be weird, BAM! These videos use this flag that’s often used to represent Northern Ireland in the real world. If it’s good enough for sports, it’s good enough for skorts. But why isn’t this flag official, and why do some people prefer not to use it? To discuss this, we must follow a narrow path through the forest of all knowledge. And be careful not to stray. It’s easy to get lost in these woods, for there are always distractions and dangers to pull us aside. Focus on the flag, don’t leave the path. This flag is the Ulster banner named after Ulster, one of Ireland’s traditional regions. The flag first flew above the Northern Irish parliament in 1953, as part of a visit by the then-newly-coronated queen. But straight away, there was a bit of an asterisk, as, quote: “The Minister of Home Affairs announced that while the Union flag was the only officially recognised standard those who wish to have a distinctive Ulster symbol might use the banner.” Which is a bit “Here’s your new flag, but not really.” And the new flag wasn’t new either, designed in 1923 along with the Ulster coat of arms. Coat of arms are symbolic objects, so let’s talk about the parts. The Irish elk represents the local Irish and the red lion represents the Ulster Scots. Wait, why are there so many Scottish people in Northern Ireland to warrant half the coat of arms? Have we wandered off the path? The shield design is a red cross which is totally not at all the St. George Cross England uses plus the crown of the UK and this red hand which is a defining Northern Irish element as it’s unique unlike the crown and the cross which are on everything. The hand comes with a lady godiva style story about how the first to touch the land of Ulster would own it. So, of course in the race someone cut off his own hand to win on technicality, which can’t possibly be true Not because people haven’t been yelling “First! – technically.” since the dawn of time But because one: Have you ever tried to cut off your own hand? It’s a lot harder than it sounds – and two: While several important Northern Irish families claim creation of the hand the stories go back to The 13th century where the paper trail runs cold so let’s spin the wheel of historical claims and just say it was the O’Neill’s because they’re the easiest ones to pronounce and they’re going to show up briefly later From creation until now there’s been debate about if the hand switched from a sinister version. No, seriously That’s what you’re supposed to call the lefty version – to a righty version But any flip-flop might just have been the whimsy of Individual flag makers, same with the thumb position – which is all over the place There wasn’t exactly a vexillological standards board a thousand years ago keeping consistency Anyway, sometime after the 1300s the hand of the… O’Neil’s was added to the symbol of another important Northern Irish family a red cross on a yellow background to form the Ulster coat of arms Oh, it really is the St. George Cross. Earlier sarcastic remark withdrawn. The designer of the new arms and flag 400 years later changed the color for reasons no one knows. The flag was then modified with a crown and a star and made sort of official from 1953 all the way until 1973 when the Northern Irish parliament ceased to exist during the Troubles *gurgling screech from an ambush by The Troubles* [Music] *face sucking noises* [Music] [Music continues, brass crescendoes] [decrescendo] The troubles were – are? – an… ‘Irregular conflict’ around Northern Ireland Is she part of Ireland or is she part of the United Kingdom? The dispute started when Great Britain … ‘colonized’ Northern Ireland, confiscating the land from local families such as the O’Neils. With the goal to “pacify, civilize and develop the land” redistributing it to English and lots of Scottish settlers. Oh, so that’s why the lion is there. So just like other places Great Britain … ‘colonized’ there’s a modern muddle of ownership and identity. In these islands the conflicts build across them for so long that it’s represented in Ireland’s flag with the white stripe being the hope for peace. Huh. Ireland’s flag still uses the 2:1 ratio of former UK places rather than the more common 3:2 ratio of most flags. Interesting: The US is a former UK place but it goes with a 10:19 ratio. Very unusual! Ah, we got pulled off the path. We need to get out of here So though the flag is composed of traditional Northern Irish symbols (mostly) it’s not official because it never really was 100% and the government that used it doesn’t exist. And when the most divisive issue in your land is: Should it be part of a kingdom; having a crown on your flag isn’t exactly neutral and is also why there are periodic calls for a new Northern Irish flag. But the power of flags is less about if they’re official or not and much more about do people use them and do other people recognise them And within these fair Isles it’s fair to say that – at least currently – the flag is used and recognized.