Wednesday 16 January 2019

Comment: Sinn Féin are simply not entitled to lecture anyone on the tricolour

The IRA was always happy to use the tricolour when it suited, such as at republican funerals like this one
The IRA was always happy to use the tricolour when it suited, such as at republican funerals like this one
John Downing

John Downing

They spent two generations draping the Irish national flag on the coffins of sectarian murderers, unsuccessful bombers who inadvertently ended their own lives, and more successful bombers of the mass-murdering variety.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, Sinn Féin and its IRA counterparts effectively purloined the flag from the rest of the nation. By creeping innuendo and persistent action, they linked it to murder in Ireland, spilling over into Britain and into mainland Europe.

Soon, ordinary citizens were reluctant to fly their own flag. People old enough to remember our heroes at the Italia '90 World Cup will recall the joy of people once more able to fly their flag without apology or embarrassment in the name of sport.

But none of that was any bar to Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin, questioning the provenance and integrity of a special 24-page supplement about the Irish tricolour which came with yesterday's Irish Independent.

"I want to know if public moneys were used for this? It is an extraordinary publication. It is very lengthy and, in part, informative," Ms McDonald sneeringly offered in the Dáil.

The new Sinn Féin leader last month made a special effort to renew her party's dark links to the IRA. Ms McDonald closed her first speech to members with militant language, drearily reminiscent of the darkest days, as she exclaimed, "Up the rebels" and "Tiocfaidh ár lá".

Ms McDonald should take a closer look at that supplement called 'The People's Flag - Pride, Respect Peace'. It traces how 170 years ago, to the very day, the patriot Thomas Francis Meagher raised the Irish tricolour for the first time. The patriot's own words tell us: "The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between orange and green."

The supplement centre-piece is the protocol for respecting the national flag. Anyone who travels this country will see the flag too often neglected, disrespected and disregarded.

The publication tells about this treasured emblem and why it should be revered.

Ms McDonald struggled with these simple facts as she sought to link it with political gamesmanship. She was trying to find links to the continuing controversy about the operations of the Government's clunky Strategic Communications Unit.

"On the face of it, this supplement is about the national flag, Thomas Meagher and so forth, all of which is good. However, it becomes difficult when it can be interpreted as politically partisan," Ms McDonald continued lamely.

For the record, the supplement is produced in conjunction with the Thomas F Meagher Foundation and did not involve taxpayers' money.

But supposing it had? Is spending taxpayers' money educating people about the national flag a crime?

Extraordinarily, she demanded that Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl put in writing that his office did not give money to the supplement. This after he had publicly, on the Dáil record, clearly said no such thing had happened.

Ms McDonald pointed to photos of Mr Ó Fearghaíl, and of Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly, an advocate for the flag. She was trying to say this was undue political advantage.

The words kettle, pot and black resound.

Irish Independent

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