If you read the transcript of the interview between Naomi and Willie Frazer (pasted below), it becomes clear she was responding to Mr Frazer’s assertion that the flag was “not only a piece of cloth”.
Naomi echoed the phrase in talking about the values it represents. She, and indeed the rest of the Alliance Party, has never disrespected the flag and the proposal for designated days, which was brought as a compromise proposal by the party’s council group, was recommended by the Crown body responsible for giving advice on the flag, the College of Arms.
Unfortunately, many people do seem to disrespect it by flying it from lamp posts, often upside down and leaving it to the mercy of the elements until it is reduced to a tattered rag.
Alliance acknowledges the flag represents the values stated in Naomi’s interview to many people but some of them support designated days as a policy. Many of them would also say that burning down political offices and attacking politicians and their staff, with a campaign of intimidation, or trying to overturn democracy by force is actually the real threat to those principles and is what people fought against.
Flying the flag every day is not a British tradition (according to the College of Arms) but an American one. They say it should be flown on special occasions to ensure its dignity.
The proposal by nationalists with which my colleagues were dealing, was to remove the flag completely and my colleagues voted against that. We proposed that the flag should fly in line with this principle and the legal and equality advice provided to the Council. Many unionist controlled councils, such as Lisburn, Craigavon and so on, made similar decisions back around 2002, with no outcry.
The fact is, without Alliance and the party’s compromise proposal, the flag would not be flying at all. The party took the best decision it could on the advice it had received and stands by that.
It is extremely dangerous to misquote or misrepresent statements in general, but particularly in such an emotive subject as emblems.
Transcript from RTE Primetime, 8 January 2013.
Willie Frazer: “You know yourself, whenever this Agreement was agreed on, the issue of flags and other issues like that were never mentioned. Youse (sic) asked us to swallow a very bitter pill by accepting prisoners onto the streets in this country and into government and onto policing boards. Now the flag is not just a piece of cloth. It is our culture, it is who we are and what we are and it’s what we were murdered for and for to tell us that after 40 years of being butchered for what that flag represents, that has now been taken down…that’s what it’s all about.”
Naomi Long: “Well, yes, let me come back on that. First and foremost, this has been the policy in even some unionist controlled councils. It is typically the way the flag is flown here in mainland GB, in Whitehall – as I walk along Whitehall to my office here in Westminster – Government buildings will only display that flag on designated days. That is a British tradition and I’m surprised to hear Willie argue against that, in that sense.
“And as for what the flag stands for – Willie said that it represents his culture and his traditions and who he is and that’s fine. He said people died for the flag. Well, I have family who fought in the Second World War. I know that they fought, not for a piece of material, but they fought for values, they fought for principles…they fought for values and principles, they fought against fascism, they fought against violent interference with the democratic process, they fought for freedom of expression, difference of opinion. They didn’t fight for a coloured piece of cloth.”