What the New St Patricks Parade Flag will look like
(MARCH 1st 2012) DUP Councillor Billy Walker of Killyleagh has been putting pressure on me though the papers to support his calls for the new Downpatrick St Patricks Day Flag to be withdrawn or amended because of his opposition to the use of the Irish name for Downpatrick. This is not now legally possible, even if it was morally desirable. See legal advice at bottom of this post.
Billy was trying to organise an alternative St Patrick’s day parade via the Orange Order. (see link) BUT I note that the Orange Order rejects his view and says he does not speak for them (link).
Jim Wells also wrote in claiming that the Protestant community would be offended by the inclusion of ‘Dún Pádraig’ on the Downpatrick flag (link). BUT The Protestant Churches in Downpatrick wrote in contradicting him (link).
This flag was brought in as a neutral cross-party proposal to end the use of either the Irish portion of the Union Flag , or the Irish Tricolour on the parade, and to allow Downpatrick to claim ‘ownership’ of the ‘St Patricks Trail’ and the important tourist initiative in St Patricks country – as this symbol is used in all Tourist-related signs for St. Patrick. What it looks like . Also see HERE to view alternatives as background
Were councillors to act in the manner suggested by Billy Walker , they could be shown to act in an illegal or prejudiced manner. We can be surcharged and even lose our seats were we to vote for his idea of deleting ‘Dún Pádraig’ from the other side of the flag, leaving only Downpatrick.
It would be open to any member of the public to challenge us legally. It is pretty clear that any councillor voting in this manner would end up in the same situation that lost half a dozen SF councillors their seats in Newry and Mourne in the face of a legal challenge by Frazier of ‘FAIR’
I attach the DCAL guidance to council on the law for your attention (see full document here). Also note the words of the EU Convention signed by the UK government in 2001, highlighted in bold, which are pretty clear.
A summary of the legal situation is below.
The Human Rights Advisory says; “Should objections to the use of Irish or other minority languages be based on intolerance or prejudice against the language, there is a positive duty on the state party to take measures to address this. This should be undertaken through measures that tackle intolerance, rather than penalising the minority language, for example, through linguistic diversity training. This is in keeping with the commitments to promote respect, understanding and tolerance of Irish contained in Article 7(3) of the Charter and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. “
Also note that the UK signed up to the European Convention in 2001 for “the use or adoption, if necessary in conjunction with the name in the official language(s), of traditional and correct forms of place-names in Irish. ”
And “The United Kingdom undertakes to eliminate, if it has not yet done so, any unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference relating to the use of Irish and intended to discourage or endanger the maintenance or development of it. The adoption of special measures in favour of Irish aimed at promoting equality between the users of Irish and the rest of the population or which take due account of their specific conditions is not considered to be an act of discrimination against the users of more widely-used languages.34
There a similar commitment by the British government in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement
I would say to Cllr Walker that his sort of rabble-rousing will get no change in Downpatrick / Dún Pádraig where community relations are excellent. It is frankly un-British to discriminate against any one of the indigenous minority languages in Britain and Ireland in the manner proposed by Billy Walker.
see other contributions to the debate here, here and here
Cllr Cadogan Enright , Downpatrick 1st March
What It Looks like; New Saint Patricks Flag