DUP upside-down Union flag
William Scholes (Irish News)
19 May 2004
The Irish News discovered that some of the DUP posters for the 2004 European Parliament display the Union flag upside down. Remember, it’s “white on right”!
“Flag poll poster ironic: expert” by William Scholes
The Democratic Unionist Party’s policy of “flying the flag for Ulster” appears to have been turned upside down in its European parliamentary election campaign.
In an embarrassing slip-up for unionism’s chief flag-wavers, the Union flag is depicted the wrong way round in some of the literature supporting Jim Allister’s campaign for next month’s poll.
The strict rules of etiquette which govern how the red, white and blue flag is flown require the broad white stripe of St Andrew to be above the red stripe of St Patrick in the top corner by the flagpole.
However, the red stripe representing Ireland in the flag is above the Scottish saltire on colour posters for Mr Allister’s campaign. The upside-down flag is also on the front page of the DUP’s website www.dup.org.uk and has been painted on the side of the party’s election ‘battlebus’.
Michael Faul of the Flag Institute, a leading flag research and documentation centre, said the DUP had made “a very common mistake”.
As well as defying protocol, flying the Union flag upside down had further significance, he said.
“At sea a flag flown upside down is a sign of distress,” Mr Faul said.
“On land it is just a sign of carelessness.”
Vexillologists – those who study flags – regularly encountered the mistake made by the DUP, Mr Faul said.
“The broad white stripe should always be above the red, beside where the flag pole would be,” he said.
“It is probably just a mistake but I am sure the DUP would want to rectify it as soon as possible. It does appear to be rather ironic that they should do this, given that the DUP make such a play out of being British.”
Labour made a similar error during Neil Kinnock’s time as its leader, when – to his embarrassment – the Welsh flag was flown the wrong way at a party conference.
Flying the Union flag upside down deliberately is also considered ‘lese-majesty’ – which means ‘insult to the monarchy’ – and is, in theory at least, still a crime in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
The DUP last night said the flag was being flown properly and that the photograph used in some of the literature had been taken from behind the flag.