Flag fury forces council to discuss its future stance

Sailor John Henderson at the war memorial and flagpole in Amble Town Square.
Sailor John Henderson at the war memorial and flagpole in Amble Town Square.
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A town council which was at the centre of a flag-flying row following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby has discussed its future stance.

The controversial incident happened on May 23 when resident and member of the Royal Navy, John Henderson, took it upon himself to lower the flag in the town’s Memorial Gardens to half-mast, in respect of Drummer Rigby.

But during Thursday, Amble Town Council asked an employee to return the flag to full mast.

It sparked an angry response from hundreds of people, including Mr Henderson, who took to the Gazette’s Facebook page to vent their anger.

The town council defended the move, saying that it was unaware as to why the flag had been lowered because no formal approach had been made, it was following accepted protocol when it comes to the lowering of the National Flag and that it would be disrespectful to single out this one incident.

Members did agree to fly the flag at half-mast on the day of Drummer Rigby’s funeral.

But the incident has led to councillors looking at how to proceed in the future. At a meeting last Thursday, the council agreed that the flag would still fly all year round.

Members formally adopted the national protocol for the lowering of the flag to half-mast (see below). As part of this, it was agreed that the flag could be flown at half -mast on ‘other relevant occasions’, providing a proper approach to the council is made. The council would then discuss the request.

Mayor Craig Weir said: “Hopefully the public accept that this is what we are going to do. I don’t think by flying the flag at half-mast on the day of Lee Rigby’s funeral is setting a precedent. It is a unique occasion.”

As the flag pole needed repairing, the flag will be on the poles in the amphitheatre in the Town Square until repairs are complete.

FULL PROTOCOL

Flags will be flown at half-mast on the following occasions:

1: From the announcement of the death until the funeral of the Sovereign, except on Proclamation Day when flags are flown at full-mast following the proclamation.

2: From the announcement of the death until the funeral of a member of the Royal Family styled ‘Royal Highness’, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.

3: On the day of the announcement of the death and on the day of the funeral of other members of the Royal Family, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.

4: The funerals of foreign Rulers, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.

5: The funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.

6: The funerals of First Ministers and ex-First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case. Unless otherwise commanded by the Sovereign, this only applies to flags in their respective countries.

7: At British Embassies, High Commissions and Missions when flags in the host country are flown at half-mast, subject to the discretion of the Chef de Mission.

8: Any other occasions where the Sovereign has given a special command.

The above cover Royal and National Mourning, but flags may be flown at half-mast on private property on other relevant occasions.