Opinion divided on Republic of Ireland flying tricolour at half-mast for Prince Philip

The Republic of Ireland’s decision to flag the state flag at half-mast to mark the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh sharply divided opinion south of the border.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 6:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th April 2021, 6:37 pm
The tricolour flying at half mast at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the funeral of Prince Philip on Saturday. Taken from President of Ireland Twiter @PresidentIRL with the message "The tricolour flying at half mast at Áras an Uachtaráin today, to mark the death of Britain's Prince Philip" April 17 2021

Across social media, it appeared the vast majority of comment on the issue came from nationalists, being fairly evenly divided.

The Irish tricolour was flown at half-mast on all state buildings in the republic on Saturday to mark the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Aras an Uachtarain (the residence of the President of Ireland) and Iveagh House (the headquarters of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs) were among the buildings where the flags were lowered.

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The UK ambassador to Ireland Paul Johnston thanked the Irish Government for what he described as “this very special gesture”.

Under Ireland’s national flag guidelines, the flag can be flown at half-mast on “all prominent buildings” on the death of a national or international figure under the advice of the Taoiseach.

The duke died at Windsor Castle on Friday April 9, aged 99.

His funeral took place on Saturday afternoon within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

UUP leader Steve Aiken tweeted his gratitude to Taoiseach Micheal Martin and the Irish government representative in Belfast for flying their national flag at half mast.

“This is very appreciated mark of respect for HRH Prince Philip & RoyalFamily. Thank you,” he said.

However the youth wing of Sinn Fein in East Tyrone was angered.

“Our tricolour flying at half mast today atop Leinster house, and for what?” they tweeted. “Many of our own Irish who did a great deal weren’t afforded this honour.”

Across social media, it appeared the vast majority of comment on the issue came from nationalists, being fairly evenly divided.

This was perhaps well represented by contrasting reactions from two TDs.

Neale Richmond, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown and party spokesman on European Affairs welcomed the move.

“Common decency on a day of mourning for our nearest neighbours,” he said. “Tricolour at half mast on all State buildings for Prince Philip.”

But Cathal Crowe, Fianna Fail TD for Clare and party spokesman for Tourism & Aviation disagreed.

“I think it’s a diplomatic overstretch, unnecessary and silly for our Irish tricolour to be flying at half-mast for Prince Philip’s funeral today,” he said. “The state SHOULD express condolences to the British Royals and UK citizenry but flying our flag at half mast...”.

Jack Nolan, a member of the Irish Labour Party Central Council and Vice Chairperson of Labour Youth, was also critical.

“Call me callous but I don’t see why the tricolour should be lowered in memory of a British prince,” he said. “No doubt there were many indelible figures in Irish society who weren’t afforded that honour.”

But John O’Brennan, Jean Monnet Chair of European integration and EU Politics at Maynooth University warmly approved the move.

“I am glad to see Ireland doing this today,” he said. “A small gesture of friendship and sympathy.”

And Kevin Kelly, Republic of Ireland Ambassador to The Netherlands, also appeared to approve the gesture. Tweeting in response to a photo and news report of the flag at half mast, he said: “Our thoughts are with our British colleagues and friends in The Hague this afternoon as HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is laid to rest.”

Southern victims campaigner Austin Stack, whose prison officer father was murdered by the IRA, also welcomed the move.

“Those of us of a real Republican tradition, who long for a shared island respecting all traditions will fully support the Taoiseach in this gesture,” he said. “[The] Unionist community need to know that their culture will always be respected in a shared island.”

Stephen Neill, an Irish Anglican Priest from Celbridge in Co Kildare suffered online abuse when he praised the Republic for the gesture - but was more impressed by the subsequent support he received online.

He said: “I want to say a big Thank You to all those who jumped to my defence today when I experienced a sustained sectarian attack by one individual when I expressed pleasure at the State lowering the flag in sympathy for the death of Prince Philip - we live in a good and generous country.”

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Alistair Bushe