I write today’s post with a very heavy heart. It is about a human tragedy in Northern Ireland. First though, I will need to explain one or two basics, for the benefit of my wonderful readers in Brazil, Bulgaria, Madagascar and Mauritius.
This is the flag of the United Kingdom…
And this is the flag of Ireland…
Northern Ireland, or Ulster, is not part of Ireland, but one of the four bits of the United Kingdom. The population of Northern Ireland, however, is a mixture of Loyalists, who wish to remain part of the United Kingdom, and Republicans, who would possibly prefer to be part of Ireland, which is not a kingdom, but a republic. Within Northern Ireland, political parties can often reflect these different groups, and the two flags have taken on an importance which is far greater in Ulster than they could ever have in the three other bits of the United Kingdom, namely, England, Scotland and Wales.
Over the past three or four days, the BBC have been telling a tragic tale about Bessbrook Pond in County Armagh, in Northern Ireland. I hope you will read their full first report here.
I have abridged it for you in case you haven’t got enough time to spend on the full version.
“25 July 2014
Sinn Féin calls for Irish tricolour flags to be removed from Bessbrook village.
Sometime this week, Irish tricolours have been erected on trees in Bessbrook Pond. Sinn Féin politicians have called for their removal. Sinn Féin member of the Legislative Assembly Mickey Brady said the flags could be seen as intimidating by Protestant residents in the village.
“The issue is causing contention because in Bessbrook particularly there is a mixed community. These flags, some may consider them as overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening, and I think what we do not want to do in relation to this is perpetuate division.”
Here are the flags in question….
In a separate report in the “Newry Times”, it was statted that Bessbrook Sinn Féin Councillor Dáire Hughes has called for the removal of (the)two Irish Tricolours….
“The erection of the national flag in places like trees in the middle of a pond is effectively dishonouring it and also neither at any time should it be used to impose, intimidate or disrespect.
“I share the belief that our national flag should at all times command the highest degree of respect,” said the Mayor and he asked for those who erected the flags to remove them.
Four days later, the BBC filed the tragic sequel to their initial story.
Here is my abridged version.
“29 July 2014
A 68-year-old man has drowned in an incident at a lake in Bessbrook village.
Oswald ‘Ossie’ Bradley was swimming to trees in Bessbrook Pond to remove two Irish tricolour flags from trees.
It is claimed Mr Bradley intended to replace them with a Union Flag when he got into difficulties. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
A teenage boy managed to bring Mr Bradley ashore at about 5:00 p.m. on Monday and attempts were made to resuscitate him.
Emergency services took him to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, about four miles away, where it was announced that he had died.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said “This is a very tragic outcome to controversies surrounding flags in this village. His untimely and tragic death is too high a price for any family and community to pay.”
For me, Mr.Kennedy has hit the nail right on the head. Flags might well be seen as important. They should certainly never be dishonoured. They should never be disrespected. And they should never ever be used to emphasise differences in the community, to intimidate, or to threaten. And most of all, no piece of cloth is more important than a man’s life, or the happiness of his family.
To conclude, though, may I pay my sincerest condolences to the family of Mr.Bradley and the village of Bessbrook.