IRSP-ALBA urges the Irish community in Scotland to defend our right to fly the Starry plough. The flag has been subject to blatant repression by Strathclyde Police for a sustained period of time. The original Starry Plough flag, first used by Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army, does not attract the same harassment given to those who fly the contemporary blue and white Starry Plough. This is,no doubt, due to a lack of education and knowledge on the part of Strathclyde Police.
The original Starry Plough was created by William Megahey of Belfast and first exhibited by the Irish Citizen Army on April 5th 1914. The Citizen Army raised the flag over the Imperial hotel in Dublin during the Easter rising of 1916. The hotel was owned by the arch-capitalist, William Martin Murphy, who fought against the strikers during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913.
In 1934 the Republican Congress decided to design a new version of the Starry Plough flag. This flag consisted of white stars on a blue background. This new design was used by the Irish Labour Party and the Irish Transport & General Workers Union, in addition to many other groups on the Irish left. This particular design of the Starry Plough is the contemporary flag which is used by Republicans and Socialists today.
For several years Strathclyde Police they have targeted the Starry Plough flag at Republican marches and demonstrations in Scotland. Their excuse for this harassment has varied over a period of time. Theypreviously claimed that the flag represented a ‘paramilitary group’ or rather bizarrely claimed it was sectarian! Now their main objection, to quote the Strathclyde police, is that “it could be seen as provocative”. This new reason for attempting to prevent people from flying the flag indicates how desperate they are to justify this blatent and illegal censorship. Due to the fact that there is no Flags & Emblems legislation in Scotland, there is no such thing as an ‘illegal flag’.
The Union Jack which is present above every official government building in Scotland is universally regarded as not only offensive but provocative by all those who know the bloody and imperialist history of the ‘butcher’s apron’. The fact they have resorted to claiming that the Starry Plough flag may ‘cause offence’ proves that it is an act of desperation, as they have no legal basis in their attempts to prevent anyone from displaying it.
The point the Irish Republican Socialist Party would like to make is that there is absolutely nothing about the flag that could be judged as ‘offensive’ in it’s design which includes a blue background and seven white stars in the form of Ursa Major or the Big Dipper. The Starry Plough is the accepted flag of Irish socialism and the Irish working class. It has been used by an array of political organisations in Ireland including the Irish Labour party. Trade unions in Ireland also carry the Starry plough on demonstrations and picket lines. The claim by Strathclyde Police that the flag has associations with so called ‘paramilitary organisations’ is absolutely false, not least due to the fact that the modern Starry Plough was created in the 1930s, which quite obviously predates the Irish conflict from 1969 onwards.
For too long people have accepted Strathclyde Police’s de facto ban on this flag, it is now time to defend the Starry Plough and the history behind it! We are in the midst of an economic crisis and now more than ever it is appropriate to display the symbol of Irish socialism. We have pointed out that there is no legislation banning the flag, so the Police in Scotland have quite clearly no right to stop people from carrying it.
If we are to represent the Irish community in Scotland then we should not be denied the right to carry a universally recognised symbol that represents us as working class people, born in Scotland of Irish descent. We live in a time where our politics are being criminalised, only we can stop it! The flag of Irish socialism is neither offensive nor illegal. We are proud of the Starry Plough and we will not be intimidated from carrying it on marches or demonstrations and neither should anyone else who considers themselves Republican or Socialist. This censorship by Strathclyde Police is indicative of the animosity to both Republicans and Socialists alike in Scotland. It is a clear example of political policing in Scotland and makes a mockery of the idea that we live in a ‘liberal democracy’. If the Starry Plough flag is the subject of repression now, what will they decide to censor next?
Defend the flag, defend your politics! Our class is the working class. Our flag is the Starry Plough. Our enemy is foreign Imperialism and native capitalism!
Irish Republican Socialist Party – ALBA 11/11/2011