Lancashire Councillor blocks Tricolour for 1916 centenary celebrations
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Lancashire Councillor blocks Tricolour for 1916 centenary celebrations

A BRITISH councillor has sparked an emotive international debate after claiming his local authority should not fly the Tricolour to mark Ireland’s 1916 commemorations.

Preston City Council’s Community and Environment Cabinet Member Robert Boswell told The Irish Post that he would not support any request from the city’s vast Irish community for the Council to fly the Irish flag next year as a mark of respect during the centenary of the Easter Rising.

“There is no proposal to fly the Irish Tricolour at the Town Hall,” the Labour councillor confirmed on Monday, “but if a request were to be received then it would be considered in the normal way.”

He added: “I may or may not be a Councillor in 2016, nor might I be the Cabinet Member responsible, but my own personal view is that we should not fly the Irish Tricolour.”

The suggestion that a Tricolour might be flown at the Lancashire council’s Town Hall follows prior decisions made by the authority to fly both the Jamaican flag, to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence, and the Palestinian flag, in solidarity with the embattled people of Gaza.

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Debate over whether the Tricolour should fly to mark next year’s Easter Rising centenary surfaced after correspondence – between Councillor Boswell and an unnamed Army Veteran – about flying foreign flags over council buildings came to light.

His comments regarding the Tricolour have drawn a mixed reaction from Irish Post readers across the globe – with American Richard Stokes claiming: “1916 is a long time ago, most of Ireland is a republic and, except for a few idiots, the Troubles are over. The Tricolour flying in Lancashire just shows friendship with a neighbour.”

Jacob Murphy added: “Many people living in England and beyond - London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Scotland, New York - during the Irish War of Independence fought on the Irish side, so why shouldn't they have some form of commemoration?”

Even Englishman Peter Clamp showed his support, asking “why not?” before adding: “Enough people suffered and lost their lives on both sides...but it is in the past and it's time to celebrate our differences alongside our similarities.”

But others rejected the flag flying notion, with some suggesting use of such national symbols was now outdated.

“No thank you,” said Eoin Mahoney, “waving flags belongs to the politics of yesterday”, while Síle Walsh simply stated: “Why?”

Colin Murphy claims the whole idea is “crass”, but for Ciaran Quinn, who describes it as “crazy”, it could open doors he would rather stayed closed.

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“Why would we ask anyone to do this?” he asked.

“Would we want a Union Flag raised in the republic to celebrate July 12 in say north Donegal, where there is a large Ulster scots community? I think not. Keep our commemorations at home with us where it belongs.”

For the Irish in Britain charity, the decision remains one for the Council, but the discussion can be beneficial to us all.

“Celebrating 1916 is not controversial in the way that it would have been years ago,” IIB Chief Executive Jennie McShannon told The Irish Post.

“The decision to fly a Tricolour is entirely the Council’s decision,” she added, “but we think it’s great that Irish communities feel able to think about how they are going to celebrate and that it’s nothing they have to shy away or hide from, nor is it meant in a provocative way.

“What is important about this discussion, regardless of what happens, is that the Irish community across Britain can feel that it’s ok to celebrate 1916,” she explained.