Wednesday 22 November 2017

Liz O’Donnell: Removal of Union flag wrong and provocative

How many hearts sank at the sight of loyalist rioting in Belfast? The scenes were all the more depressing because they coincided with the Clinton visit complete with press entourage. For this writer, it was infuriating because what prompted the riot was so unnecessary and ill-judged.

The agreement reached on Good Friday 1998 was a historic compromise; there was parity of pain and parity of gain for both communities. The outcome was a new society, which respected equally the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as Irish or British, or both, if they wished to so choose. It has taken more than 15 years to roll out all the changes, including a devolved power-sharing executive, assembly, prisoner releases, a new police and justice system and the decommissioning of paramilitary arsenals.

But like it or not, a fundamental part of the deal was that the status of the North as part of the United Kingdom was unchanged and would remain so unless decided on freely in referendum by the people at a later date. The outcome of any such referendum would be honoured by both governments. This is the principle of consent.

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