PREVIEW: The Tedious Southern ‘Flag’ Debate

By Jack Traynor

In March 1939 the Cambridge Union Society was the scene of a heated debate on the proposed motion, ‘This House extends its fullest sympathy to Eire in the conflict of interests between Northern and South Ireland’. A Cambridge barrister from Northern Ireland named J.L. McQuitty excoriated the motion employing vituperative rhetoric which was, then as now, a shibboleth of all good Unionist speechcraft. He argued: ‘We in Ulster will not have our Union Jack torn down. We will not have it replaced by the Tricolour Republican emblem, conceived in conspiracy, born in bloodshed, and raised in rebellion’.  The debate included notable participants like Edward Carson’s son. Ill-conceived comparisons were made between Northern Ireland’s populace and the Sudeten Germans (the Munich Agreement had only been negotiated a few months prior in September 1938). In the end, the motion was supported by the Cambridge Union. 

Although bombastically expressed, McQuitty’s inherently hostile attitude to the Tricolour and all it represented to him rings through the ages: The same sentiment resonates amongst today’s Unionists – perhaps even more intensely, considering their experience of three decades of bitter violence. The history and meaning behind the Tricolour flag are well known: Green representing the Gaelic/Catholic Irish tradition, Orange representing the Protestant tradition, and white symbolising peace and friendship between the two. Additionally, the Protestant origins of Irish Republicanism via the United Irishmen have often been repeated as a catchword by Nationalist politicians to flaunt their non-sectarian bona fides…

The Journal

Read more of this article when the Gown’s online issue is released on 16th of September.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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