One of the more puzzling aspects of Northern Irish tribalism for visitors to the country is the display of Palestinian and Israeli flags by republicans and loyalists respectively. Although I’d imagine that identification with the two sides has existed for some time, its graphical display on flag polls is surely a fairly recent phenomenon.
On a visit to Enniskillen this weekend my attention was drawn to the letters page of the Impartial Reporter, in which a debate over a proposed crystallisation of these supposed alignments was raging. The newspaper’s webpage only has selected content from the print version and links to the letters are not available. However, the gist of the controversy is an attempt by an organisation known as the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group to persuade the Fermanagh District Council to twin the county with Beit Sahour.
The District Council have elected not to pursue this proposal, an eminently sensible decision which nevertheless has fostered controversy and has been challenged in the council chamber by Sinn Fein (quelle surprise). Beit Sahour is a town near Bethlehem which has become symbolic of Palestinian resistance and the intifada.
Clearly the group in question is attempting to foist a partial and politically loaded twinning on the county and Sinn Fein is playing an active role in supporting such action. Thankfully the council have elected to dismiss the proposal as counterproductive.