Northern Ireland

East Belfast resident defends flying Confederate flag outside his home

A Confederate flag has appeared outside a property on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast.
A Confederate flag has appeared outside a property on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast. A Confederate flag has appeared outside a property on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast.

An east Belfast resident has defended flying a Confederate Flag from outside his home on the Cregagh Road.

The ‘stars and bars’ flag was erected on a large white pole outside the property, which faces the Orange Order museum.

Featuring seven stars on a blue background and with red and white stripes, it was one of the earlier symbols adopted by the Confederate states who supported slavery during the American Civil War.

While the so-called ‘battle flag’, with a red background and blue cross, has become the most recognisable symbol of the Confederacy, the different incarnations of the flag are still a major source of controversy in the United States.

Objecting to the appearance of the flag on the Cregagh Road, one passerby questioned if it was a protest against the recent unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist leader who was born into slavery, in Belfast City Centre.

Speaking to The Irish News at his home, Andrew Boyd (44) denied any suggestion that the flag was meant to be offensive.

“It’s not the battle flag, it’s the original flag from when the seven states broke away from the United States,” he said.

“There was two after that, there was the stainless banner and the blood-stained banner.”

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Mr Boyd said he normally puts the flag up in July to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg, fought in Pennsylvania on July 1-3, 1863.

Resulting in the largest amount of casualties during the American Civil War, it is considered a turning point in the war in favour of the northern union forces.

“That’s basically it, it’s just something my family has always done. My father did it as well.”

He said his family had originally emigrated from Ireland to the southern state of Georgia, but returned after the Civil War and the reconstruction era that followed.

Asked about the stigma of racism attached to Confederate flags, he said: “There’s no racism in my family whatsoever, but I know it can be perceived that way.

“It’s just the history of it, it’s not meant to cause any harm to anyone. I put it up once a year through the month of July and that’s it.”

On the claim his flag was a protest against the Frederick Douglas statue, he said: “That’s not the case. You can ask anyone around here, it’s been up since the start of July.

“It’s family history, that’s it and it’s being perceived very wrong.”

A statue to Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Belfast on Monday. Picture, Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A statue to Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Belfast on Monday. Picture, Liam McBurney/PA Wire A statue to Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Belfast on Monday. Picture, Liam McBurney/PA Wire

On Monday, the life-size bronze statue of Frederick Douglass was unveiled on Lombard Street to commemorate his time spent in Belfast.

Although born into slavery, he managed to escape in 1838 and became a major force in the abolitionist movement and was known for his speeches and writings.