Flags Monitoring Project

Media Releases 

TV Interview on BBC Newsline - Dr Dominic Bryan talks about the status of the Northern Ireland flag and the possibilty of an alternative. (Tuesday 28 September 2010)

Full Press Release (Monday 14 June 2010)

Who Respects their Flag?                                   (full report in PDF format)

One third of flags put up on main roads in Northern Ireland over the summer months are still flying at the end of September. That’s according to new research by Queen’s University.

Surveys conducted by the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s in July and September over the last four years show that, on average, over 4,000 flags are put up on lampposts and houses, in town centres and on arterial routes every July. The surveys found that those flying from lampposts were often not removed and left to become torn and tatty over the winter months.

Yet questions asked in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 2008 reveal that 83 per cent of people in Northern Ireland do not support the flying of flags from lampposts in their area.

The survey results are being published in Public Displays of Flags and Emblems in Northern Ireland. The study is funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, to evaluate the creation of shared space and the effectiveness of the multi-agency Flags Protocol, which was introduced in 2005.

The vast majority of the flags flying represent the unionist or loyalist tradition (over July 2006-09 the average number of unionist flags was 3868 compared 245 nationalist and for September the average number of unionist flags was 1411 compared with 505 nationalist). At Easter, two thirds of the flags on arterial routes are unionist.

The research shows a significant reduction in the number of paramilitary flags flown on arterial routes during July - down from 161 flags in 2006 to 73 in 2009. By far the largest proportion of those flying in July 2009 belonged to the UVF. The research also shows some reduction in how many people feel intimidated by such displays (in 2003 21% of people said they had felt intimidated by loyalist or republican murals and flags, in 2008 13% of people were intimidated by republican displays and 15 % by loyalist displays).

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 2008, however, revealed that over half of those surveyed believe the Union flag and Tricolour were usually put on lampposts by paramilitary groups. And importantly, over a third of people said they were less likely to shop in neighbourhoods with loyalist and republican flags and murals.

Dr Dominic Bryan, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s said: “Over the last thirty years the Ulster tradition of flying flags on houses appears to have declined, while there has been an increase in hanging flags from lampposts.

“Instead of celebrating identity, tattered and torn flags are left to demarcate territory. In Northern Ireland, where national identity is so keenly felt, the national flags are treated with little respect.

“There is a difficult balance to be struck between legitimate expressions of identity and prolonged displays that lead to greater territorial divisions and potential community relations problems, which can ultimately have detrimental economic effects. Festivals and parades offer potential benefits to many communities, but it makes sense to take flags down after a couple of weeks.

“We hope this research contributes to an informed debate on how expressions of identity can be managed to foster greater respect between people in Northern Ireland.”

Public Displays of Flags and Emblems in Northern Ireland available online at:   http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/IrishStudiesGateway/Research/CurrentResearch/

on Monday 14 June 2010. Hard copies are available on request from the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University on 028 90973386 or irish.studies@qub.ac.uk.  For more information about Irish Studies at Queen’s visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/IrishStudiesGateway 


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke on 028 9097 5320 or anne-marie.clarke@qub.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. Dr Dominic Bryan is available for interview.

2. The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey is conducted annually by ARK at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. The survey records the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people in Northern Ireland to a wide range of social policy issues. For more information visit www.ark.ac.uk/nilt