During a day working in Liverpool Town Hall early last year, we made an enquiry with the main man about why the Flag of Ireland is never flown on St. Patrick’s Day. “Simply because we don’t have one,” came back the reply. “If I get you one, will you fly it?” “Absolutely,” said our man at the Town Hall.
So, 10 days before March 17th 2015, I took a huge Tricolour around there. The main man had just gone out for an hour, so I left it with security. An hour later I received a telephone call to say that the Town Hall doesn’t fly foreign flags and could I go back and pick it up. That was that.
However, Liverpool Town Hall does fly foreign flags, I’ve seen them with my own two eyes. The other thing is, in this city, the national flag of Ireland is hardly foreign. The reason for the change of mind, I can only assume, is for fear of upsetting the small, but vocal, local Orange Lodge. Now, apart from that fact that the Irish Tricolour pays homage to the Protestant tradition in Ireland, by taking up a third of the flag with orange, I can’t see why these simple colours, which are everywhere on St. Patrick’s Day, can’t be flown from Liverpool Town Hall for 24 hours. It’s the very least this city can do for the massive debt we owe Ireland.
The flag itself was inspired by the French revolutionary Tricolour and is deeply symbolic: green for the indigenous Gaels, Orange for the Williamite tradition and white for peace and understanding between them. In a city where almost everyone has some Irish blood flowing through their veins, flying the flag wouldn’t be an expression of solidarity for terrorist atrocities like Loyalists have claimed – it’s simply joining in the party!
The great Liverpool journalist, Paul Du Noyer, notes that if Irish people had green skin then modern Liverpudlians would be a delicate shade of mint. The bonds might not be as strong as in the aftermath of ‘an Gorta Mor’ (The Great Hunger), but the city’s separateness, defiance and emotional centre are in large part due to the fact that north Liverpool was once a massive refugee camp. ‘Scouse’ is a classic example of what cultural geographers call a ‘Third Space’, meaning it’s a hybrid, the product of two parent cultures colliding spectacularly… in this case, the indigenous Lancastrians and the migrant Irish. Why wouldn’t we celebrate one of our parents? After all, if it wasn’t for the Irish, there’d be no Beatles – and whether you care to admit it or not, we’d be less of a force without those four. Indeed, Ireland is the only country in the world with a musical instrument as its national symbol; look no further for the reason why this place lives and breathes song and dance.
Isn’t it time for the city to not be held to ransom by Loyalist extremists, frozen hard in a time when racism and sexism was the orthodoxy, and time to not be intimidated by a creed that has no place in the modern world (or the ancient world, for that matter)?
On Paddy’s Day, Liverpool should be doing what everyone else is doing: flying the Irish Tricolour. Just one day a year is not going to end partition Billy lad, so stop fretting. Besides, the Pope was cheering on your side during the Battle Of The Boyne wasn’t he… so it’s always been a funny ole world.
‘Liverpool Town Hall’
– pic by John Johnson