Proposals have been made to erect statues on the grounds of Belfast City Hall. The current statues honour colonial British icons who, for many, represent hate. The proposal is to populate the grounds with an equal number of Irish Republican or Nationalist statues. This is nothing but shallow tribalism.
In a polarised society such as ours, symbols cause division. Colours aren’t just colours here; they are reminders, statements, warnings. It’s easy to hate that flag flying above you. And we do hate it, we hate both flags. Equality! Right?
We hate the statues, when we struggle to notice them. We hate the language, when we struggle to notice it. We hate them’uns, when we struggle to find out what side they’re on.
Until then, we’re all the same. So let’s stop struggling.
We’re always talking about ‘both sides of the community’ and how we should work towards equality between them. In principle, this goal is admirable, however there is a subtle divisive element lurking beneath it. There should only be one side of our community. Our obsession with symbolism is a symptom of this.
The statues of British monarchs and soldiers may trigger resentment in half of the community, but erecting more statues, triggering resentment in the other half, is not the way to tackle the problem.
How about instead of wasting resources on expensive and, let’s face it – purposeless – statues, we build homeless shelters and name them in honour of our heroes?
Some can afford grand stone sculptures in their gardens, some can’t afford a roof over their heads. Which side of the community are you from?