FLYING the national flag at half mast outside council buildings today has divided opinion among Donegal’s councillors.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s office contacted all local authorities on Friday requesting that the flag be lowered to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.
In an email to Donegal County Council Chief Executive John McLaughlin, the Taoiseach asked that arrangements be made for the flying at half mast of the national flag from “all buildings, if any, under your control equipped with a permanent flagpole on Monday, the day of the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”.
Mr McLaughlin relayed the request to elected members on Friday morning.
The Donegal News wrote to the county’s 37 councillors on Saturday after west Donegal independent Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig branded the proposal a “disgrace”.
Of the councillors canvassed, some did not respond while some said they had no comment to make. Others however did offer their views.
Sinn Féin’s Gary Doherty questioned the fact that the directive had come down from the Taoiseach’s office without notice or consultation.
He said his party was conscious of the fact that the queen’s death was being mourned by many people in Ireland. But there were many more with different views on her passing, Councillor Doherty added.
“This directive has come from the Office of An Taoiseach without prior notice or consultation with local authorities or elected members,” he said.
“We are conscious of the fact that there are many people in Ireland who are mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth, however we are also acutely aware that there are many more people who have a conflicting view of the British monarchy as a consequence of the brutal oppression carried out in its name on our island.
“People, including council staff and elected members, are entitled to voice their opposition to this measure, which is unprecedented for a foreign head of state or indeed any Irish dignitary on the occasion of their passing.
“We would question the logic of An Taoiseach in issuing this directive without consultation and needlessly causing a debate on its merits,” Councillor Doherty added.
Cathaoirleach Liam Blaney would not be drawn on the issue but said the half masting of the flag was not exclusive to Donegal.
The Fianna Fáil member said, “The chief executive notified us of this request from the Taoiseach’s Office and as far as I know they are making plans for it. To the best of my knowledge all councils are doing the same and I’m not aware of any that aren’t.”
Councillor Jimmy Kavanagh of Fine Gael said he felt lowering the flag was appropriate as the English monarch “did her bit for the peace process with her visit in 2011”.
“She did genuinely try to heal wounds and build bridges, especially with the wreath laying in the Garden of Remembrance and the visit to Croke Park which she initiated,” said Councillor Kavanagh.
That view was shared by his party colleague Martin Harley.
“I have no issue with it at all. There are a lot of people living in this county that are very upset by her passing. If we ever want to move on let us respect everyone’s view and cultures,” Councillor Harley said.
Independent member Ian McGarvey said yesterday he knew of no opposition among his constituents to the lowering of the flag during the monarch’s funeral.
“I’ve had no one ringing me saying they are opposed to it, not one single person.
“Anyone I have spoken to, they would all have respected her, the role she had and how she conducted herself in that role.
“I often talk about equality and the need to respect people’s attitudes. Staying apart serves no one well and it is time we came to terms with what history has created for us.
“People have enough in their lives without division,” Councillor McGarvey added.