Friday night, after having drinks at Anchor Inn and dinner at Badger’s, two other students – Joan and Teresa – and I decided to walk the wall back to the hotel. As we crossed over the entrance from London Street we noticed three young guys near the “Londonderry ... No Surrender” sign – all in black hoodies, looking around. They looked suspicious. A ladder was leaned against the side of a building and one of the guys was on the roof with a big long pole tugging at the Union flag. We stopped. What on earth were they doing?
My first thought – they were from the other side – the Nationalist side – and they were pulling down the Union flag. Given the civil unrest happening down in Belfast over the last couple days over the Union flag flying for 17 days a month there, I assumed they were up to no good and wanted to make a point by taking down the Union flag.
|The colors painted on curbs, poles and anything else indicate allegiance.|
I think the old reporter in me wanted it to be something nefarious. I have no opinion either way of the situation. But as Eamonn Deane, our tour guide on Saturday, reminded us: you don't hear news about people in peace, only when they're in conflict. I was definitely guilty of that in my days of reporting on crime and courts.Controversy feeds reporting.
So, whatever was the case with these three hooded young men, I stepped back and just watched. Curious to see what would happen next. Were they going to put up a new Union flag? Or the Tri-Color flag of Ireland?
|The Ulster flag hasn't been replaced at a memorial.|
The guys continued in their quest to pull down the flag. After a while, they succeeded. The tattered Union flag was thrown into a plastic trash bag. Then the guys went over to another flag – the Ulster flag – and proceeded to pull that flag down. After that one came down, the guys stood near a monument painted with the Union flag and other symbols indicating their support for Britain. One wrapped the flag around them. Two of them stretched it out while the third snapped a photo. The flag was thrown into the trash bag, they picked up their ladder and long pole and left.
|One of the buildings where the flag was removed|
So what did that mean? We don’t know. Our guess was that they were Unionists and pulled down the tattered flags to replace with new flags. No new flags were replaced at the time. So, I waited until this morning for our guided walking tour of the Wall to see if new flags were there.
It’s still a bit of a mystery what they were doing. But now, I think I’ll check every day until I leave to see if new flags are waving.
But the incident reminded me that it's not safe to assume. More times than not, it's better to be a fly on the wall and not let your mind jump ahead of what is taking place right in front of your eyes.