OUTRAGED families are fighting the removal of the Irish tricolour from the graves of their late relatives at one of Britain’s largest cemeteries.
Following a number of complaints from other mourners at Southern Cemetery in Chorlton, Greater Manchester, Manchester City Council have given families a deadline by which the flags must be removed.
All flags – a large number of which are Irish – must be removed by Sunday, April 3.
The council has confirmed that any that have not been cleared from the graves by the deadline will be removed by their Bereavement Services team on Monday, April 4 and will be available for collection thereafter.
They claim their aim is to return the site to a ‘quiet place of reflection’.
The news has left many Irish families in Manchester devastated as they consider the flags symbolic of the heritage of their loved ones.
A petition urging the council to halt their decision has also been launched.
Regarding the council’s decision, the petition’s founder Dave Carlyon said: “This is a disgrace and is disrespectful to the families that have their loved ones laid to rest there. Something needs to be done to stop this decision.”
Among the petition’s 49 supporters are many grieving Irish families.
Dan Smith from Manchester said: “My mum is buried here and this I think is just dumb. It needs to be sorted. A lot of Irish people are buried there and [their] families don’t need this.”
Amy White from Co. Cork has family members buried at the cemetery and believes that the flags provide comfort during grave visits.
“I think it’s a complete disgrace that people have objected to flags on a grave,” she said. “It’s disrespectful that people would have a problem with this, my family members find great comfort going to [their] deceased families grave sides and they should be within [their] rights to have a flag on the grave.”
Among the dozens of national flags at the cemetery are also those of various soccer teams.
Across the country there has also been a growing trend to place toys, ornaments and other personalised items on gravestones as a tribute to those who have died.
Some argue that cemeteries are a place for contemplation and should not become exhibitory but other councils in Britain, including in London and Liverpool, have not introduced policies banning such items.
In the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea there are no specific rules regarding the placing of flags on graves.
A spokesman for the council told The Irish Post that the cemeteries located in Hanwell and Gunnersbury in west London do not restrict the practice.
“I believe there are one or two flags, but they are small and unobtrusive and there hasn’t been any complaints,” he said.
Liverpool City Council hold the same position, with no specific regulations banning flags at its six cemeteries across the city.
“We advise people that if they leave mementoes on graves they do so at their own risk,” a spokesman said.
Barrie Jones, General Manager of Bereavement Services for Manchester City Council said that following the increasing number of complaints regarding the Southern Cemetery, the flag ban is the most appropriate course of action.
“Cemeteries are a shared space and we have to be sensitive to the feelings of all those who visit them to remember loved ones,” he said.
“While we completely understand that some people have found comfort in these flags – which include those of football clubs, as well as nations – this is an issue we have received many complaints about from bereaved families and the local community, who feel they are inappropriate.
“We appreciate that this is an emotive subject, but on balance, especially given the number of flags involved, we believe that asking people to remove the flags is the most sensitive course of action.”