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Grieving families fight removal of Irish flags from relatives’ graves

irish flag grave-n
Flags overlooking graves at Southern Cemetery (Photo: Vincent Cole)

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.

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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.”

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6 comments on “Grieving families fight removal of Irish flags from relatives’ graves”

  1. Ann Carlin

    Like many, both my Irish parents are buried at Southern cemetery (without flags), Dad for nearly thirty years and mum in the last two. It's lovely that families are proud of their heritage, football team etc, personally I am pleased with the decision to remove all flags and look forward to my next visit.Ann Carlin

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  2. Garvan Hickey

    You lot could pick a fight in an empty lift! It's a cheap 'click bait' headline - at a time of national reflection of some serious issues related to people who actually died for the tricolour. The removal of all football and national flags - who knows how many, how big they are or how high they're flown - sounds like a very good idea. The idea that everyone should have to see your Gran's favourite "Man Yoo" flag 24 hours a day - so you can see it when you drive past the cemetery one a week is ludicrous. The pathetic attempt to suggest that this action is some kind of anti-Irish measure is despicable. "Among the petition’s 49(!) supporters are MANY grieving Irish families". Really? They must be pretty small families. If "Anne from Cork" believes that the flags provide comfort during grave visits - bring one with her, stick in the ground - and take it home afterwards.

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    • Boston, USA

      Common in the U.S. to see graves with U.S. flags on veterans graves. Common to see Irish, Italian, Polish Greek, African flags etc. on graves as an expression of ethnic pride. I can see cemetery officials limiting excessive ornaments or offensive items. That is reasonable. However a simple flag celebrating an ethnic heritage is not offensive.

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  3. John Carroll

    The world is in the grip of IS atrocities and the Southern Cemetery is fighting a war against flags..........amazing

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    • Boston, USA

      @ John Caroll: Good comments.

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  4. Boston, USA

    They should leave the flags alone. Folks have a right and freedom of expression to place the flag on a departed ones grave.

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