Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Most Northern Irish people want new flag?

An interesting poll appeared today in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper. It asked three questions:

  • Should NI have a new flag for civic events?
  • Should NI have a new flag for sporting events?
The other question was about anthems which is outside the scope of this blog. It asks the quest "new flag" but it should be pointed out Northern Ireland does not have its own flag like England, Scotland and Wales do. The Ulster Banner was a heraldic banner of the Northern Ireland Parliament's coat of arms. The flag has had no official status since 1973. Although widely used by local people, that doesn't really make it the NI flag as other flags are also in widespread use.
The British government often uses the St Patrick's Saltire to represent NI alongside the relevant England Scotland and Wales flags. This was the case in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations when the Royal row barge Gloriana was decorated in the flags of the home nations:
 St Patrick's Saltire is often used as it represents Northern Ireland in the Union Flag:
Neither flags are official however meaning Northern Ireland the only region of the UK without its own unique emblem. Anyway back to the pole the results are:

Interesting that the poll suggests that Most people do want a NI flag for sporting events at least. It is clear that the outright majority don't want an NI flag for civic occasions. The majority of them being protestant suggesting its probably safe to assume that the majority are happy with the Union Flag for civic buildings.
Also of note is that on both polls most young people have said yes, something perhaps politicians should take note of, and perhaps the shape of things to come. A year ago the New Flag for Northern Ireland Facebook page, did research into their most popular flag proposals, the results of which were:
The method was most liked and shared, however that was almost a year ago. Another Telegraph poll on identity suggests that most people see British as their prime identity:
This is contrary to a few years ago when Northern Irish was the largest, and possibly a result of various issues regarding flags and parading in NI in the last couple of years. The decrease of regional identity as the prime identity may suggest little appetite for a regional flag (which is what an NI flag would be, it would not replace the Union Flag as the national flag). Of course the only way to find all this out, would to put it to the vote.


  1. I think you messed up the Catholic pie chart in the sporting events image.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The Belfast Telegraph made that pie chart. Good spot Matthew.

  4. I suggest this as a new NI flag :

  5. Your "most popular" flags list from the New Flag for Northern Ireland Facebook page is incorrect. There were mistakes in counting that version. (I am an admin from that page)

    1. this is an old post from October 2014.
      Thanks for the info

  6. The Northern Irish flag has no "official status" in the same way that the English flag has no "official status" (whatever the definition of that might be). Both are civic flags.

    It might interest you to know that nothing happened in 1973 to the 'status' of the Northern Irish flag. As far as other flags 'official status' are concerned, the next most official (after the completely 'non official' status of both English and Northern Irish flags) would be either the Scottish flag or the Union Jack. The Union Jack is at least mentioned in parliament a couple of times. The Scottish flag is also unofficial, except that in around 2000 the flag was mentioned in the Scottish Assembly as being the flag of Scotland. The only flag that has any "official status" would ironically be the Welsh flag, which legislation was specifically drawn up for in Parliament in the 1950s.

    As the flag of Northern Ireland is the only flag that specifically represents Northern Ireland, it is currently the only flag of Northern Ireland. The St Patrick saltire is a close second due to its historic use and continued use (particularly in the Union Jack). However, it can also be used to represent the whole island of Ireland.

  7. As for peoples' identity, an organisation regularly asks that very question in various forms, and has done so almost every year since 1998. The organisation is basically run by the two universities of Northern Ireland. It's called the Northern Ireland Life & Times Survey.

    When asked about which identity is best for individuals, over the years this has ranged from as low as 19% to as high as 29%. A couple of things are interesting to note. One is that it seems more 'Protestants' are becoming irreligious. Irreligious people often tend to be more moderate on a constitutional issue. It could be said, therefore, that 'Protestants' are becoming more moderate. Possibly as moderate as they had been before the Troubles. Secondly, the lower numbers for Northern Irish identity seem to be concentrated mostly in the earlier polls. 19% in 1999 and 2002, for example, while it hasn't dropped below 24% since 2003, with the exception of 2012. This corresponds closely with the year in which the poll was taken for the Belfast Telegraph, and it was suggested that an increase in violence was partially responsible for some changes in personal identification.

    So people in Northern Ireland identifying as Northern Irish is actually on the increase. But all this is with regard only to the question of which identity suits the respondent BEST.

    We can look at two results from the NI L&T survey. One from 1998 and the other from 2007. The question was phrased differently: "how strongly do you feel yourself to be Northern Irish?"

    In 1998, of respondents who had either 'strongly' or 'weakly' (ie. they felt *some* feeling of being Northern Irish) a total of 79% felt Northern Irish to some degree. 19% felt "not at all" Northern Irish. Almost ten years later, in 2007, that increased to 84%, while the "not at all" respondents dropped to 15%. Interestingly, the figures for both 'Protestants' and 'Roman Catholics' were pretty similar in 1998. There was a little more disparity in 2007, with 'Protestants' favouring the Northern Irish identity more strongly, and a drop in the 'strongly' feeling for Roman Catholics. But the total increased for Roman Catholics anyway. Of note is the fact that the 'not at alls' dropped in percentage for both religions and for none. Also, there was a larger decrease in in the 'not at alls' for the 'non-religious' respondents.

    So, basically over eight out of ten of us seem to identify as Northern Irish, with about half us us strongly so.

    The only criticism I have of the survey is that they had changed the wording of the categories. In 1998, it was "strongly" and "weakly"; whereas in 2007 it was "very strongly" and "not very strongly". "Not at all" remained the same in both surveys.